Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Because this year wasn’t weird enough, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this morning.
It wasn’t exactly a surprise, because some folks, this writer included, have been suggesting it for years. But it was shocking in that it had the force of recognition and resolution, and in the fact that, in the stolid terms of the Nobel, it is almost, if not quite, unprecedented.
That precedent as far as I can see rests with one person: the profanely comic and adroitly provocative Italian playwright Dario Fo, who died, sadly, just hours before Dylan’s prize was announced. The awarding of the Nobel to Fo in 1997 sent the Catholic Church, whom he targeted most brutally, into a paroxysm of rage. The one for Dylan, many years ago, might have had the same effect in many circles.
Click here to continue reading the complete text of Bill Wyman’s article which was originally published at vulture.com on October 13, 2016.
Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and NPR.
The awarding of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan has provoked enthusiasm and dismay since its announcement on October 13. Dylan himself has indicated distaste for the distinction by ignoring it. His silence called forth a rebuke from the Stockholm apparatus, wherein Per Wastberg, a writer, called Dylan “arrogant and impolite.” But Sara Danius, secretary of the Swedish Academy, quickly explained: “A member of the academy, Per Wastberg, has publicly expressed his disappointment at Bob Dylan’s omitted response. This is Mr. Wastberg’s private opinion and is not to be taken as the official standpoint of the Swedish Academy.”
It may be that the honoree himself grasps the absurdity of the affair. Dylan is not without a cynical side. Nor is this the first misstep by the Swedish Academy in its recent Nobel selections for literature. Since 1976, when the prize was awarded to Saul Bellow, the Swedes have swung wildly between inspired and baffling choices. Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978), the Greek poet Odysseus Elytis (1979), and Czeslaw Milosz (1980) all were worthy of recognition. Milosz, like other literary Nobelists, may have been selected for a political reason—to express support for the rising Solidarity labor movement and other oppositionists in Poland. The selection of Elias Canetti (1981) was a fascinating example of good the Swedes can do with the prize: It brought global attention to a Sephardic Jewish writer from Bulgaria who wrote in German.
Click here to continue reading the complete text of Stephen Schwartz’s article which originally appeared at firstthings.com on November 1, 2016.
Stephen Schwartz’s literary career has spanned some 50 years, with his work appearing in many major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and The Toronto Globe. He was also a staff writer at The San Francisco Chronicle for 10 years.