Bob Dylan was shocked to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ hitmaker did not attend the ceremony in Sweden on Saturday (12.10.16) to collect his prize, but in a speech, read out by the US ambassador to Sweden, he admitted it was "something I never could have imagined or seen coming".
The speech went on to explain that when he first heard he had won the prize – which comes with £750,000 – he thought of William Shakespeare.
He said: "When he was writing ‘Hamlet’, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: ‘Who’re the right actors for these roles? How should this be staged? Do I really want to set this in Denmark?’
"His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. ‘Is the financing in place? Are there enough good seats for my patrons? Where am I going to get a human skull?’ I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question: ‘Is this literature?’
"Like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. ‘Who are the best musicians for these songs? Am I recording in the right studio? Is this song in the right key?’ Some things never change, even in 400 years. Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself ‘are my songs literature?’ So, I do thank the Swedish academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question and ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer."
Patti Smith performed Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ at the ceremony in his absence.
Horace Engdahl, a Swedish literary critic and member of the Swedish academy behind the prize, defended the choice of Bob as the recipient, saying: "It seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious.
"What brings about the great shifts in the world of literature? Often it is when someone seizes upon a simple, overlooked form, discounted as art in the high sense, and makes it mutate.
"In the distant past, all poetry was sung or tunefully recited. He panned poetry gold, whether on purpose or by accident is irrelevant … He gave back to poetry its elevated style, lost since the romantics."