The Swedish Academy seems to have given up trying to reach Bob Dylan to officially tell him he was won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The organizers now hope the musician will turn up to the award ceremony, which is held annually in Stockholm, Sweden (with the exception of the peace prize, which is held in Oslo, Norway.) Each winner receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a sum of money.
The award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Dylan has generally met with a positive reception, although some academics of a more purist leaning have criticized the idea of the award going to a songwriter. Dylan’s lyrics, particularly his 1960s output, are regarded as some of the most powerful ever put to song, revealing insights into the human condition. Leonard Cohen, a poet and well-regarded lyricist himself, said of Dylan’s award: “To me it is like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain,” the Canadian is quoted by The Guardian.
Critics of Dylan receiving the award include Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh, who remarked, as quoted by The Australian: “this is an ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.”
Putting the debate about whether the award is appropriate or not, Dylan himself has remained silent on the subject and has not acknowledge the award in any way other than a line that appeared on his website and then, a few days later, disappeared. The simple words “winner of the Nobel prize in literature”, which appeared on the page for The Lyrics: 1961-2012, have now been removed. According to The Guardian, “Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate, is once again plain Bob Dylan.”
However, if Dylan wished to refuse the prize it seems he is unable to do so. He could of course not turn up to collect the medal and not accept the money, but his name will still appear on the official list of Nobel Prize winners. Jean-Paul Sartre is the only known winner of the literature prize to have declined the award voluntarily. In 1964 the French existentialist philosopher wrote to the committee to decline the award, as explained in an essay penned for the New Yorker. This was not granted, and Sartre’s name still appears on the list of recipients of the literature prize winners.
2016 Bob Dylan, United States
Nobel Prize for Literature winners for the past ten years
2015 Svetlana Alexievich, Belarus
2014 Patrick Modiano, France
2013 Alice Munro, Canada
2012 Mo Yan, China
2011 Tomas Tranströmer, Sweden
2010 Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru
2009 Herta Müller, Germany
2008 Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, France
2007 Doris Lessing, Britain
2016 Bob Dylan, United States
Another attempt to decline the prize, in a roundabout way, was made by Soviet dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. According to The Daily Telegraph, Solzhenitsyn refused to travel to Stockholm in 1970 since he because he feared that the Soviet Union would block his return afterwards. A request by Solzhenitsyn for the ceremony to be held at the Swedish Embassy in Moscow was turned down. In the end, Solzhenitsyn was given his award in 1974 following his exile from the USSR.