Entertainment Music ‘Ill-conceived nostalgia’: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize win met with shock, anger

‘Ill-conceived nostalgia’: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize win met with shock, anger

Bob Dylan
Not everyone is a Bob Dylan fan. Photo: Getty
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The decision to award American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan with the Nobel Prize for literature has been met with shock, condemnation and criticism from authors who feel he is undeserving of the accolade.

Dylan was named as the prize winner in Stockholm on Thursday (Friday AEST) for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The announcement by the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, elicited jeers, laughter and gasps of shock from the crowd.

Watch the announcement and reaction below

Ms Danius said while the decision “had not been difficult” she hoped it wouldn’t be criticised too harshly.

“We hoped the news would be received with joy, but you never know,” she told The Guardian.

“We’re really giving it to Bob Dylan as a great poet – that’s the reason we awarded him the prize. He’s a great poet in the great English tradition, stretching from Milton and Blake onwards.”

Dylan, 75, is the first singer-songwriter to win the award and has broken a 23-year drought for American winners of the award.

While the nominees for the prize are kept secret until 50 years after it is awarded, Dylan is believed to have beaten out big names like Japanese author Haruki Murakami and American author Don DeLillo.

Murakami was a hot favourite to win, with his fans awaiting the verdict in Tokyo photographed looking shocked and bemused by Dylan’s success.

Tokoy Murakami
Murakami fans at a shrine in Tokyo reacting to news Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Photo: Getty

On Twitter user joked Murakami was becoming “the Leonardo DiCaprio of literature” – comparing his near-misses to DiCaprio’s lengthy campaign for an Academy Award.

Previous winners of the prize have included Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Albert Camus.

Musicians congratulated Dylan, including Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Bette Midler, while Searching for Sugar Man star, musician Sixto Rodriguez, described him as “the Shakespeare of music”.

Some authors, however, were less celebratory. Irish wordsmith Irvine Welsh described the award as “ill-conceived nostalgia wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile-gibbering hippies”.

Satirical American author Gary Shteyngart joked Dylan was chosen because the Nobel committee found it too hard to read books.

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult wondered whether Dylan’s win meant she could soon claim a Grammy.

Dylan isn’t the first controversial winner of the literary accolade.

In 1962, American author John Steinbeck’s win was criticised by Swedish media as a huge mistake, with The New York Times questioning why the prize went to an author whose “limited talent is, in his best books, watered down by tenth-rate philosophising”.

Steinbeck himself admitted he was undeserving.

In 1964, French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre declined to accept the award.

“It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize laureate,” he said.

“A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honourable form.”

It wasn’t all bad, however – authors Stephen King and Salman Rushdie both praised the choice, while actress Mia Farrow argued Dylan’s win was a light in a dark news cycle.

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