Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize win begs a few questions….
This year’s Nobel prize for literature has been given to Bob Dylan, singer-songwriter extraordinaire and with it comes an outpouring of opinion from the literary set. No surprise there then. Awards seldom gain universal approval, Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 dumbfounded himself as much as anyone else but Dylan’s award is more split.
There can be no doubt that in his time, Dylan has rightfully earned respect for being a fine lyricist, his words were a call to action for many people in the early sixties and his contribution to music artistically, politically and socially should not be underestimated. His lyrics are poetic, quite beautiful in places but the question I suppose is this; can a song be considered a piece of ‘ideal’ literature? but does it matter given the shifting stance of the committee over the years? I suspect not.
Many have been quick to accuse the committee of overlooking American authors in general in recent years and cite DeLillo and Roth as prime examples of ignored worthy recipients. Both have produced fine pieces of literature but have their words ‘moved’ as many people as Dylan’s lyrics have? Should levels of success be a consideration? I don’t believe they should be, the key must surely be in the quality of the writing and its potential to affect a reaction in the reader or, in this case, the listener.
Is Dylan’s award an anti-establishment gesture by his generation’s panel of judges? a broadside aimed at the American presidential election as some are saying? We do not know but I have a feeling this prize is being treated by the recipient in the same manner as a ‘still baffled’ Barack Obama, for try as they might, Dylan has ignored all attempts at contact by the judges who have now given up trying to speak to him.
One suspects DeLillo or Roth may have been less rebellious.
Categories: The Reading Room