Veteran musician and songwriter Bob Dylan has been honored by the Swedish Academy win the Nobel Prize for literature today, which recognized the Minnesota native as “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Dylan is the first American to win the prize since author Toni Morrison in 1993. Born in 1941 in Duluth, Dylan was originally known as Robert Allen Zimmerman.
While he has long been rumored as a possible recipient of the coveted prize, he was not among the top contenders. Others being considered were Japanese writer Haruki Murakami and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o of Kenya. The Swedish Academy has thus turned away from granting the prize to fiction writers for the second year in a row.
Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius issued the announcement today in Stockholm. In an interview broadcast on television after the announcement, Danius said that Dylan “embodies the tradition. And for 54 years, he’s been at it, reinventing himself, creating a new identity.” Danius issued a personal recommendation to those unfamiliar with his work to start with his 1966 album, “Blonde on Blonde.” “It’s an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming and his pictorial thinking,” Danius said.
“If you look back, far back, you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to. They were meant to be performed. It’s the same way with Bob Dylan. But we still read Homer and Sappho. He can be read and should be read. He is a great poet in the grand English tradition. I know the music, and I’ve started to appreciate him much more now. Today, I’m a lover of Bob Dylan."
Dylan will receive an 18-karat gold medal and a check for about $$925,000 on December 10 in Stockholm.
Others honored by the Swedish Academy this year include President Jose Manuel Santos of Colombia, who received the Nobel Prize for Peace.
A prolific singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, the 75-year-old Dylan has produced dozens of albums, including The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blood on the Tracks. His song, "Like a Rolling Stone," has been cited by Dylan and many others as having marked a watershed in American popular music. In 1985, Dylan proclaimed "Tin Pan Alley is gone," in a reference to the conventions for popular music established by publishers of the early 1900s. "I put an end to it. People can record their own songs now."
The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded since 1901 to those authors producing "the most outstanding work in an ideal direction." Since then, 109 prizes have been distributed to 113 writers. Among Dylan's predecessors are writers of the stature of Miguel Angel Asturias of Guatemala, Albert Camus of Algeria, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, Rudyard Kipling of England, William Butler Yeats of Ireland, Ernest Hemingway of the United States, and Boris Pasternak of the Soviet Union.
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