In a radical departure from the past, the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize for literature to musician Bob Dylan, 75, best known for his anti-war songs of the 1960s including ‘Blowing in the wind’ and ‘The Times They are a-Changin’. Dylan had also performed in Washington when Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech, in 1963. Though Dylan had been mentioned as a potential Nobel winner for years, this is the first time that a musician has won the Nobel Prize for literature. India’s Rabindra Nath Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize for literature “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.”
With the Nobel Prize under his belt, Dylan is the only person apart from George Bernard Shaw to win both an Oscar and the Nobel Prize for literature. According to the committee, Dylan won this year’s award ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.’ That we cannot doubt. Yet questions have been raised on equating Dylan with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Jean Paul-Sartre and John Steinbeck. That debate will continue. But, the committee has opened up an entirely new avenue as far as literature is concerned. That’s the best part of this year’s award.