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Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’.

Dylan was announced as the winner at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on 13 October. Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Dylan was ‘a great poet in the English speaking tradition’ and ‘a very original sampler’, adding that his 1966 album ‘Blonde on Blonde’ represented ‘many classics’ and was ‘an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, and putting together refrains and his pictorial way of thinking’.

Responding to the controversial decision to present the prize to a songwriter, Danius said: ‘It may look like we have [widened the horizon for the prize], but really we haven’t. If you look back, far back, 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to. They were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, and it’s the same way with Bob Dylan … He can be read and should be read and is a great poet in the grand English poetic tradition.’

Readings managing director Mark Rubbo told Books+Publishing he found it a ‘very curious and problematic choice’, adding that ‘it’s a prize for literature not for literature and songwriting’. ‘Bob Dylan is a great lyricist and many of his songs have had a profound effect on many people but so have other lyricists such as John Lennon or Bob Marley or, even, one of Dylan’s great influences, Woody Guthrie,’ said Rubbo. ‘I could understand awarding it to Leonard Cohen, for example, who has published a number of volumes of poetry, but Bob Dylan no. They are similar but quite different.’

Rubbo said the prize should increase the interest in a volume of Dylan’s lyrics publishing in November. Dylan’s memoir Chronicles: Volume One was published by Simon & Schuster in 2004.


Category: International news