The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” The choice of Mr. Dylan for the world’s top literary honor came as something of a surprise and was widely viewed as an expansion of the academy’s traditional notions of art. Mr. Dylan, 75, joins a pantheon that includes T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Samuel Beckett and Toni Morrison — the last American to claim the award, in 1993.
The 75-year-old Dylan was always considered a strong “outside candidate” for the prestigious award and until Thursday, as The Guardian notes, “his regular appearance in the betting odds was regarded as one of the longrunning jokes of the Nobels.”
The choice was met by gasps and a long round of spontaneous applause from journalists attending the prize announcement. The folk rock singer had been mentioned in Nobel speculation over the years, but was never seen as a serious contender. The Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius said Dylan’s songs were “poetry for the ears” while acknowledging that some might find Dylan a “strange” choice.
His songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “The Times They Are a-Changin,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Like a Rolling Stone” captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence. He’s the first songwriter to win the prize for literature – some are overjoyed, others not so much.
“Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound,” the Swedish Academy said on Thursday, when it awarded the 8 million Swedish crown ($930,000) prize. The Nobel is the latest accolade for a singer who has come a long way from his humble beginnings as Robert Allen Zimmerman, born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, who taught himself to play the harmonica, guitar and piano.
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