Of course, the awarding of the Nobel Prize is not done via a democratic process but by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm and the odds, and the whole notion of “a Nobel for Dylan,” are indicative of popular sentiments that may have absolutely nothing to do with whatever criteria are used to award the prize. In recent years, Dylan’s work has been analyzed as poetry and its philosophical qualities remarked upon; Cambridge University has published a companion to his work. The Nobel is to be awarded to “the person who … produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction,” in the words of Alfred Nobel, who endowed the prize: Sounds very good, but indeed vague. Perhaps the question to ask is rather, can a Nobel Prize for literature be awarded to someone whose literary oeuvre is popular song lyrics? Certainly it’s more likely that people have heard a Bob Dylan song than have read one of Tranströmer’s poems.
On the other hand, maybe it takes something like a prestigious prize for people to hear about a poet associated with the “beauty of stillness.”
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Photo of Dylan performing in Stockholm via Wikimedia Commons
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