The Nobel Committee is not alien to shocking audiences, especially with its choices for the Literature Prize. This time, however, it rocked. Quite literally. Bob Dylan, one of the most innovative musicians of our age, was awarded the distinction “for having created new poetic expressions within the American song tradition.”
The first American to win it since Toni Morrison in 1993, the prize for Dylan is also a recognition for the legions of followers he has earned since the 1960s. Half-jokingly, the singer has occasionally complained about the centrality of the sixties in the reviews of his work. He was not dead yet, he has said.
With its decision, the Swedish Academy came down from its lofty heights. It extended a hand to the “great unwashed,” the masses that may not read high literature yet relish the poetry of bards like Dylan, the man who shaped the voice of the Vietnam War generation and still inspires the proverbial millennials. And he shouldn’t begrudge to be treated as if he was no longer with us. When men become myths, they do seem to belong in a different dimension. They recognized it in Stockholm, for once.