Bob Dylan Completes His Nobel Homework
Bob Dylan has completed his Nobel course requirements.
David Vincent/AP, file – Bob Dylan
Les Vieilles Charrues Festival in Carhaix, western France.
The Swedish Academy announced Monday that it has received the mandatory lecture from the 2016 literature winner, enabling Dylan to collect 8 million Swedish kronor ($922,000) in prize money. Spokeswoman Sara Danius described Dylan’s talk in a news release as “extraordinary” and “eloquent.” Nobel Prize officials said the 26-minute talk was recorded on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Danius said its delivery to the academy meant that “the Dylan adventure is coming to a close.” Dylan, widely regarded as the most influential songwriter of his time, received the Nobel Literature diploma and medal in April but was still required to give a speech to receive the money. Dylan took weeks to publicly acknowledge even winning the prize, announced in October and greeted with both joy and dismay that a rock star had received an honor previously given to William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alice Munro among others. He did not attend December’s Nobel ceremony in Stockholm and his acceptance remarks were read by the United States Ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji.
Dylan’s songs have drawn on literary influences from Beat poetry to Anton Chekhov and his recording was a celebration of books and music and of the common language among art forms. In a warm, raspy delivery, with lounge-style piano in the background, he called Buddy Holly his first musical hero and praised his “imaginative verses.” He said books such as “Ivanhoe” and “Don Quixote” helped shape his view of the world and inspire him to write songs “unlike anything anybody had ever heard.”
He discussed three works at length: “Moby Dick,” ‘‘All Quiet On the Western Front” (in which “death is everywhere, nothing else is possible”) and “The Odyssey,” a “strange, adventurous tale” he likened to such modern pop songs as Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound.” He concluded by noting that Shakespeare’s words were meant to be spoken, “Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page.”
“And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days,” he said. “I return once again to Homer, who says, ‘Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.’”