In a surprising decisions U.S. folk singer and songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.
The Swedish Academy said that the 75 year old Dylan was given the award “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
Bob Dylan is the 259th American to have won a Nobel, across all disciplines, and the first to win the literature prize since Toni Morrison in 1993.
Dylan was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minn, and grew up in Hibbing. He played in bands as a teenager, influenced by the folk musician Woody Guthrie, the authors of the Beat Generation and modernist poets. He moved to New York in 1961 and began to perform in clubs and cafes in Greenwich Village. His many other albums, which the Swedish Academy described as having “a tremendous impact on popular music,” include “Bringing It All Back Home” and “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965), “Blonde On Blonde” (1966) and “Blood on the Tracks” (1975), “Oh Mercy” (1989), “Time Out Of Mind” (1997) and “Modern Times” (2006).
He is the first songwriter to have won the prize, and his regular appearance in the betting odds was regarded as one of the long running jokes of the Nobels. In her citation, Sara Danius said that though the choice might seem surprising, “if you look far back … you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan. We still read Homer and Sappho, and we enjoy it.”
While some like Salman Rushidie reacted positively to the news calling Dylan as the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition others questioned the merits of this decision by the Swedish Academy. British Indian novelist and journalist Hari Kunzru tweeted, “This feels like the lamest Nobel win since they gave it to Obama for not being Bush”, while Scottish novelist and playright Irvine Welsh called it an “an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.”