The Nobel Prize for Literature was announced on 13th October, and to delight of many, Bob Dylan emerged as the surprise winner. Ranked a 50-1 outsider by the bookmakers, the selection of Dylan has been embraced in some quarters, but criticised in others.
The Nobel Committee remarked that the choice was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
Inevitably, the news has attracted much discussion on social media. They does appear to be a general culture acceptance that Dylan, like Lennon or Cohen or Waits, could be considered a poet or sorts, at least. Whether this reflects well on Dylan as a writer, or poorly on society’s general perception of poetry, is another matter. Many have asked should someone who is primarily known as a singer-songwriter receive the award? Have other worthy writers been looked over? Is this crass dumbing-down and pandering to the masses, or a brave and bold decision by the Nobel Foundation? And has any actually ever read Dylan’s book ‘Tarantula’?
In defence of the Nobel Prize Committee, we found this interesting definition from their statutes on ‘Objects of the Foundation’: “The term “literature” shall comprise not only belles-lettres but also other writings which, by virtue of their form and style, possess literary value.” Which should at least settle the argument on Dylan’s validity for selection.
We look at some of the reaction on social media to the announcement:
Great news that Dylan the troubadour is a laureate for literature https://t.co/n28hLKSU5R
— Anne O' Neill. (@ANNIEON) October 13, 2016
— Jeremy Noel-Tod (@jntod) October 13, 2016
Sorry, call me an elitist, but Bob Dylan is NOT a giant of literature (maybe music?). No way. This will go down as a joke choice.
— Robin Durnford (@robin_durnford) October 13, 2016
@islandwall @BBVevex So the wonderful Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize for Literature. Cultural relativism? Maybe, but fears blowin' in the wind.
— Jane Hardy (@janeeliothardy) October 13, 2016
I'm glad Dylan has won the Nobel prize. But I urge you all, do NOT go out and read his novel Tarantula.
— Henry Bell (@Henbell) October 13, 2016
Yeah but songs aren't actually poems, and isn't a defining aspect of literature the fact that you read it? Nobody reads Dylan do they?
— Tapsalteerie (@tap_poetry) October 13, 2016
I can get down with Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. But I cant get down with Vladimir Nabokov never winning it #NobelPrize
— Dean Healy M.E.P. (@OnaedInSpace) October 13, 2016
And to end with, Kevin O’Sullivan, editor of the Irish Times, reminded his followers of an aptly entitled article from 2011:
— Kevin O'Sullivan (@KOSullivanIT) October 13, 2016
Featured Illustration by N. Elmehed © Nobel Media 2016