Bob Dylan: Should musicians win the Nobel Prize?

Article published on Oct. 14, 2016
Article published on Oct. 14, 2016

Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" - the first time the Swedish Academy has given the prize to an artist who isn't primarily a writer. Is it pandering to popular culture, or an understanding of the broadness of the literary genre? 

Dylan is lightyears behind past winners - The Daily Telegraph, UK

Dylan's lifework is notable, says the Daily Telegraph, but it doesn't compare with that of previous Nobel literature laureates:

"The Nobel is supposed to be awarded not on the basis of what the public likes (if it were, Doris Lessing wouldn’t have won it) but on ability matched by idealism. Dylan has both, but his body of work falls far short of that produced by past winners: Yeats, Gide, O’Neill, Solzhenitsyn etc. The scale of their output and the thematic density of their texts outstrips Dylan by light years... A culture that gives Bob Dylan a literature prize is a culture that nominates Donald Trump for president. It is a culture uninterested in qualifications and concerned only with satisfying raw emotional need." (13/10/2016)

The Nobel jury turns the rules on their head - Polityka, Poland

The decision is too far removed from the basic idea behind the Nobel Prize in Literature, Adam Szostkiewicz argues in Polityka:

"Congratulations, Bob! But I have a question: doesn't this mean a change in the principle behind the awarding of the prize? A Nobel prize for sung poetry? And what about the other singing poets? Is Leonard Cohen now in with a chance? ...Nevertheless, the literature prize should really be reserved for a representative of literature. Because what does Dylan have in common with Miłosz or Szymborska, for example, if you don't look at his music but just the text? How is he comparable to Zagajewski, who has been on the Nobel committee's shortlist for years? This is a paradigm change. On the one hand I like it, on the other hand it upsets me because it turns the rules on their head." (13/10/2016)

An award for the other America - Eesti Päevaleht, Estonia

Bob Dylan's winning the award sends two messages, Eesti Päevaleht comments:

"The awarding of the Nobel Prize often has a political undertone. This holds true for yesterday's surprise decision that the Nobel Prize in Literature should go to the US musician Bob Dylan: a man who has spoken out for peace, the oppressed and human rights. This decision is also significant in the context of the US presidential elections, in which the campaigns have been particularly dirty. Giving Dylan the award is a reminder that not all Americans come from Mars... But with its decision, the Nobel jury has also shaken up our very idea of what literature is: you needn't have written thick books to be the best writer in the world. A more profound message can dwell in striking song lyrics than in a thousand novels." (13/10/2016)

Mr. Tambourine Man

At last: a poet who sings - Digi 24, Romania

Author Dan Sociu is full of praise for the jury's decision in an article for Digi 24:

"I like the fact that a troubadour has won the award, because a poet always has a voice, no matter whether he sings the verses or just recites them. The special thing about Dylan's voice is that it underlines the emotions in what he is saying.. Poetry is also about the sound of the words, not just their meaning, and the voice of the poet expresses more than just what is printed on the page. Those who say that the Nobel Prize has gone to a songwriter and composer have failed to understand what poetry is. Dylan's name is mentioned in all the major anthologies of American poetry, so there is really no need for a discussion about this." (13/10/2016)


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