The Swedish Academy made an unexpected – and, for some‚ shocking – selection on the morning of Oct. 13 when it named U.S. singer-songwriter Bob Dylan the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan is the first recipient honoured for his music rather than for literary fiction or poetry‚ with academy members calling him “the greatest living poet” and citing his creation of “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Permanent academy secretary Sara Danius compared Dylan’s writings to Homer and Sappho. “He can be read and should be read‚” she stated at a press conference.
Public favourites to win this year included contemporary Japanese writer Haruki Murakami‚ Syrian poet Adonis‚ lauded U.S. novelist Philip Roth‚ Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o‚ and prolific U.S. writer Joyce Carol Oates. British betting and gambling company Ladbrokes gave Dylan 50-to-1 odds of receiving the prestigious $930,000 award.
Reactions on social media have been mixed‚ though many authors have expressed their support: Salman Rushdie called the musician a “good choice,” and Oates said “his haunting music and lyrics have always seemed‚ in the deepest sense‚ literary.”
Dylan‚ 75‚ rose to rock ‘n’ roll icon status after his folk beginnings in New York in the early 1960s. His hits include “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963)‚ “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)‚ and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1973).
The last American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature was Toni Morrison in 1993.