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Bob Dylan – Deserves the Nobel Prize?

Jayasree Chakravarty

Sitting curled up on the bed, I looked up startled when my mother dropped a newspaper near my feet. ‘Why don’t you read this, you need to know what’s going on in the world around you. What’s the point in going to UWC when you’re oblivious to such recent news. Sulking, I reached the Telegraph, where the headlines read ‘Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016. ‘Ok mom, you need to relax, someone had to get the Nobel Prize and it’s not like you knew till about two minutes ago, when the newspaper vendor came. Who is Bob Dylan ….. wait isn’t he the one who wrote The Tambourine Man?’  That is all I knew about Bob Dylan until I opened BBC and CNN.

It seemed to be a so shocking that the year’s most notable deaths had not caused such a reaction; more divisive than  the US Presidential election Brexit. The opinions separate into camps of Yes, No and Wha…! The first one was, ‘YES – Of course he deserved it. The second one is NO… he should not have got it and Wha…. were from the people like me, who did not know whether to be surprised or nor.

The ‘Yeses’ were from those who view Dylan as one of the greatest artists of his or any era, and  deserves to be taken as a  litterateur. Dylan in their eyes is a literary giant, and the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature is an affirmation of what they already knew. The general sentiment among these people is, no accolade is too honorable for him; and the Nobel, the ultimate gold standard among prizes, is his due. Those who say ‘No’  are those who feel he is not  de rigueur. Wither that or they don’t care for Dylan, or don’t think he’s that great and that is primarily because  rather than being a  judge for themselves, they embrace the opposite view.

Some common opinions were  ‘Bob Dylan does not deserve the Nobel Prize in Literature.’

Although on one hand he does deserve all Grammys he has one as well as a lifetime achievement award and the fact that  he belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because he is a wonderful musician, a world-class songwriter and an enormously influential figure in American culture. However by awarding the prize to him, the Nobel committee has supposedly chosen  not to award it to a writer,  is  disappointing.

He, Dylan is a brilliant lyricist who has written a book of prose poetry and an autobiography which can be analysed in depth. He is great because he is a great musician, and common opinion is that, ‘when the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer. The committee gave the prize to a man who is internationally famous in another field, one with plenty of honors of its own.’

A really striking quote I came across that supports the quote mentioned above is, ‘Bob Dylan does not need a Nobel Prize in Literature, but literature needs a Nobel Prize. This year, it won’t get one.’Another objective view that I read from another reporter was something I found interesting. He clearly states he is not a fan of Bob Dylan’s but believes Dylan deserved it – as he ‘is a broader cultural phenomenon.’ Supposedly  The Beatles once drew inspiration from him whereas while the Beatles fell from the summit of their popularity a long time ago, Dylan continues touring today.

So why is it justified that the Nobel go to musicians and lyricists? Is it because poetry and novels are out of fashion. The sad truth is, in most cases they are. I have never bought a book on modern poetry and though I agree some poems are absolutely wonderful, they seem to be becoming a fad. Can you remember a contemporary poet whose collection became a world bestseller? Looking at societal development, it seems that in the future poems will be read less and less , whereas music, I find myself listening to music whenever I have some time. Doesn’t matter if it’s old English classic, or pop or heavy metal or even old Hindi songs. They all classify as music and each fit in a different category, each with their own mood. The novel too is under threat. One category of writers look for new ways to express themselves, new styles and compositions , others use the traditional novel, and short story form to search for new plots and new aspects of human existence. But this approach also has many problems, and that is expressed by the fact that ‘it seems that everything great and universally human has already been talked about and contemporary literature, just does not have new themes with such scope.’

On a personal note I do not know enough about Bob Dylan to make a remark on whether he deserved the Nobel or not, but it was a bold move from the side of the committee to prove that song writers with the same ability as Dylan can receive prizes like the Nobel. One of my favourite songs by Dylan is ‘Blowin in the Wind.’ One of the lines  that is really striking especially in this context is, ‘How many roads must a man walk down. Before you call him a man?’

It is ironic that even though Bob Dylan came up with these famous lyrics, critics today continue to criticise him, saying songwriting is not enough to be awarded the Nobel Prize. Dylan who has dedicated himself to this field for more than half a century is finally being forced to live up to the lyrics of his song. Most people criticise, even though they know they wont amount to even a fifth of what Dylan has achieved in his lifetime, yet they don’t let alone an opportunity to crib about someone. Bob Dylan has travelled many miles but he still apparently has many roads to walk before he is considered, worthy of the Nobel.

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