The Nobel Prize award to Bob Dylan hasn't gone at all how they expected

Harriet Marsden@harriet1marsden
Saturday 22 October 2016 14:15
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Picture: Getty Images/Hannelore Foerster(Getty Images/Hannelore Foerster)

ICYMI, cultural icon and songwriter extraordinaire Bob Dylan was offered the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Dylan has been famously reclusive since the height of his fame in the 1960s, and has always been reluctant to be categorised or pigeonholed.

So things haven't gone exactly as planned.

Here's a timeline of the major milestones in this story so far:

Thursday, 13 October: Forever Won

After 20 years of lobbying, the committee in Stockholm announced that Dylan has won the Literature prize "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Despite being the first musician in history to be awarded the Literature Prize, the secretary of the Swedish Academy said it had "not been a difficult decision".

We're really giving it to Bob Dylan as a great poet - that's the reason we awarded him the prize. He's a great poet in the great English tradition, stretching from Milton and Blake onwards.

We hoped the news would be received with joy, but you never know.

- Sara Danius, secretary of the Swedish Academy

Dylan gave a concert in Las Vegas after the announcement, but didn't mention the accolade.

Friday, 14 October: Reactions like a rolling stone

While thousands of people took to the internet to sing the songwriter's praises, others questioned the blurring of boundaries between literature, poetry, verse and popular song.

There was also some backlash from fans, who protested that Dylan was too subversive, uncategorisable, and anti-mainstream for the prize.

This is an ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.

- Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting and big Dylan fan

According to the Guardian, Will Self also said that "it cheapens Dylan to be associated at all with a prize founded on an explosives and armanents fortune", referring to the founder, Alfred Nobel, an armaments manufacturer.

Monday, 17 October: The artist is blowin' in the wind

Reports surface that the Nobel Prize award committee have been unable to get in touch with Dylan.

Apparently, despite numerous attempts to contact him, they have had no response - and they don't even know whether he will attend the awards ceremony in Stockholm on the 10th of November.

Sara Danius was quoted as saying: "I think he will show up. If he doesn't want to come he won't come."

It will be a big party, in any case and the honour belongs to him.

Tuesday, 18 October: No more knockin' on Dylan's door

The academy announced that it had given up trying to reach the elusive artist.

"Right now, we are doing nothing," Sara Danius said on radio SR.

It remains unclear whether Dylan will accept the prize.

Wednesday, 19 October: Nay Lady Nay

The speculation continued to grow - would Dylan acknowledge the prize at all?

Jean-Paul Sartre is the only known winner of the literature prize to have turned down the award voluntarily, having written a letter to the committee asking not to be considered - but it arrived after their decision.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn turned it down fearing persecution, before he was exiled from the Soviet regime.

Boris Pasternak was also pressurised by the Soviet authorities to decline the award.

Although it's technically impossible to refuse the title, as the Nobel committee will continue to list the winners it has chosen, Dylan can choose to turn down the prize money.

Thursday, 20 October: Don't Blink Twice, It's All Right

Blink and you'd almost miss it: a tiny mention of the award was slipped into a page on his official website.

The words "WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE" appeared on the page advertising his new collection, The Lyrics: 1961-2012.

This has been the only public recognition of the award, although it is unclear whether Dylan wanted it to be added to his website, or whether he was even aware of it.

Friday, 21 October: Jokerman

All mention of the award has been removed from Dylan's official website, in a surprising backtrack.

Again, it is not clear whether this was done on behalf of Dylan, his manager, or his PR team.

But it now seems fair to assume that Dylan did not sanction the update in the first place.

Saturday, 22 October: Mr Tambour-mean man

A member of the Swedish academy, Per Wastberg, was quoted in Swedish newspaper Dagens Myheter calling Dylan's refusal to acknowledge the award "impolite and arrogant".

“We were aware that he can be difficult and that he does not like appearances when he stands alone on the stage,” he said.

One can say that it is impolite and arrogant. He is who he is.

Wastberg added that the academy still hopes to make contact with the artist.

Two weeks remain until the awards ceremony. What's going to happen next?

But let's hope, not too much, because we're run-run-running out of Dylan puns.

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