Awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for literature a stretch of the imagination
While the decision has been applauded by some, many scholars and readers take issue with according song lyrics literary status
If giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a rejected ceasefire deal in a troubled nation like Colombia does not raise eyebrows, honouring an American pop star with the world’s most coveted writer’s award surely does. The decision to award the Nobel Prize for literature to Bob Dylan has left even some of his fans baffled.
The panel behind the award has not left the answer to critics blowing in the wind. Conferring the top literature title to a rock legend for the first time, it said the US songwriter was honoured for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. With a career spanning 54 years and no fewer than 14 awards in the entertainment world, few could dispute Dylan’s stature and influence. But compared to his predecessors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Elliot, George Bernard Shaw and Rudyard Kipling, he is the odd one out.
The award has fuelled as much debate over Dylan’s worthiness as a Nobel laureate as whether song lyrics can be considered literary works. While the decision has been applauded by some as stepping out of the box of intellectualism and elitism, many scholars and readers would however take issue with according song lyrics literary status. Even for those who are convinced by the classification, they may opt for other candidates. After all, songwriters, including many in this part of the world, are arguably just as good, if not greater. By awarding the top prize to someone primarily known for something other than literature does not do justice to many well recognised writers around the world.
That Nobel prizes are fraught with debate is nothing new. The Swedish Academy, the assessment body for the literature award, has long been criticised for being biased or insensitive to winners’ political background. Granting the top literature prize to a songwriter surely adds to the list of controversies.
No accolade is arguably greater than the Nobel prize. Repeated controversies over the choice of winners do nothing for the credibility and prestige of the awards.