2016 Nobel Prize – Literature – A very very big surprise

nobelprize2016-litThis is the last remaining Nobel prize for 2016. Normally it is announced along with all the others, but this year that announcement was postponed for one week. Clearly there was some vigorous debate taking place and so the potential for a very surprising pick was in the pipeline.

The announcement that they had picked singer and songwriter Bob Dylan as the winner certainly has indeed sent the media into a bit of a frenzy. I do also now wonder if this means that Stephen King can get a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of fame.

So stepping back, let’s ask why there is a prize Nobel for Literature?

Within his will Alfred Nobel stipulated that his fortune was to be used to establish five categories, and literature was one of those five. The precise wording within his will reads …

“The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: /- – -/ one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction …”

… and that is basically the entire remit for it.

The decision regarding who will receive the prize each year is made by the Swedish Academy. That was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III to promote the Swedish language, and so when the Nobel prize was setup they were deemed to be the best choice in Sweden to make such a decision.

The words, “ideal direction” have resulted in a few issues over the years. This is because they have been embraced literally at times as part of the decision making process and the result is that some very well-know high-class and well-deserving authors never received the award. For example James JoyceLeo TolstoyAnton ChekhovMarcel ProustHenrik Ibsen, and Henry James never received it.

It has perhaps been getting a bit better, but the words “ideal direction” still linger over it all and so this award is not just about literary merit but also clearly includes idealism as a very decisive factor in the choice. This basically means that it can become quite political and so an author of considerable literary prowess might be passed over for one who promotes human rights.

As might be anticipated, criticism abounds, and so many a case will be made for those who never received it and yet should have, and also for those that did, but perhaps should not have. The words, “ideal direction”, will continue to haunt the proceedings because they simply cannot be avoided, forgotten, or passed over. This means that the Nobel Prize can never be the definitive literature benchmark, but we also cannot dismiss it because it is still highly significant.


Here is a list of the top ten most popular winners, and yes, it is perhaps a very subjective list …

1. Rabindranath Tagore
2. John Steinbeck
3. Gabriel García Márquez
4. Ernest Hemingway
5. Pablo Neruda
6. William Faulkner
7. Svetlana Alexievich
8. Wislawa Szymborska
9. Winston Churchill
10. Toni Morrison

Perhaps the most potent criticism of it all is a list of highly notable writers who did not win it ..

As noted by one writer, the fact that this one is so often not the best choice is truly understandable …

“eighteen (or sixteen) Swedish nationals will have a certain credibility when weighing up works of Swedish literature, but what group could ever really get its mind round the infinitely varied work of scores of different traditions. And why should we ask them to do that?”

This year is more than a little bit different.

It will be popular with the public in general, but I suspect the book crowd are not exactly wholly thrilled.

As for Mr Dylan himself, so far he has not commented, and as for why they decided to pick him, that perhaps is very much down to the observation that The Times They Are A-Changin’. He was very much the voice of the 60s and what is wholly impressive is that more than half a century later is is still up on stage touching hearts.


The Official Nobel Announcement is very terse

Press Release
13 October 2016

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016

Bob Dylan

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 is awarded to Bob Dylan

“for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

.. and that is it, the above is the entire official press release.

They do however list his works on another page …

Biobibliographical Notes

Bob Dylan was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. He grew up in a Jewish middle-class family in the city of Hibbing. As a teenager he played in various bands and with time his interest in music deepened, with a particular passion for American folk music and blues. One of his idols was the folk singer Woody Guthrie. He was also influenced by the early authors of the Beat Generation, as well as by modernist poets.

Dylan moved to New York in 1961 and began to perform in clubs and cafés in Greenwich Village. He met the record producer John Hammond with whom he signed a contract for his debut album, called Bob Dylan (1962). In the following years he recorded a number of albums which have had a tremendous impact on popular music: Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, Blonde On Blonde in 1966 and Blood On The Tracks in 1975. His productivity continued in the following decades, resulting in masterpieces like Oh Mercy (1989), Time Out Of Mind (1997) and Modern Times (2006).

Dylan’s tours in 1965 and 1966 attracted a lot of attention. For a period he was accompanied by film maker D. A. Pennebaker, who documented life around the stage in what would come to be the movie Dont Look Back (1967). Dylan has recorded a large number of albums revolving around topics like the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love. The lyrics have continuously been published in new editions, under the title Lyrics. As an artist, he is strikingly versatile; he has been active as painter, actor and scriptwriter.

Besides his large production of albums, Dylan has published experimental work like Tarantula (1971) and the collection Writings and Drawings (1973). He has written the autobiography Chronicles (2004), which depicts memories from the early years in New York and which provides glimpses of his life at the center of popular culture. Since the late 1980s, Bob Dylan has toured persistently, an undertaking called the “Never-Ending Tour”. Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature.

Bibliography – a selection

Works in English

Bob Dylan Song Book. – New York : M. Witmark, 1965

Bob Dylan Himself His Words, His Music. – London : Duchess, 1965

Bob Dylan : A Collection. – New York : M. Witmark, 1966

Bob Dylan : The Original. – Warner Bros.- Seven Arts Music, 1968

Tarantula. – New York : Macmillan, 1971

Poem to Joanie / with an introduction by A. J. Weberman. – London : Aloes Seola, 1971

Writings and Drawings. – New York : Knopf, 1973

The Songs of Bob Dylan : From 1966 through 1975. – New York : Knopf, 1976

Lyrics, 19621985. – New York : Knopf, 1985

Bob Dylan Anthology. – New York : Amsco, 1990

Drawn Blank. – New York : Random House, 1994

Lyrics, 19621996. – New York : Villard, 1997

Lyrics, 19621999. – New York : Knopf, 1999

Man Gave Names to All the Animals / illustrated by Scott Menchin. – San Diego, Calif. : Harcourt Brace, 1999

The Definitive Bob Dylan Songbook. – New York : Amsco, 2001

Lyrics : 19622001. – New York : Simon & Schuster, 2004

Chronicles Volume One. – New York : Simon & Schuster, 2004

Bob Dylan : The Drawn Blank Series / edited by Ingrid Mössinger and Kerstin Drechsel. – New York : Prestel, 2007

Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric : The Lost Manuscript / photographs by Barry Feinstein. – New York : Simon & Schuster, 2008

Lyrics / edited by Heinrich Detering. – Stuttgart : Reclam, 2008

Forever Young / illustrated by Paul Rogers. – New York : Atheneum, 2008

Bob Dylan The Brazil Series. – New York : Prestel, 2010

Man Gave Names to All the Animals / illustrated by Jim Arnosky. – New York : Sterling, 2010

Blowin’ in The Wind / illustrated by Jon J. Muth. – New York : Sterling, 2011

Bob Dylan : The Asia Series. – New York : Gagosian Gallery, 2011

Revisionist Art. – New York : Gagosian Gallery, 2012

Bob Dylan : Face Value / text by John Elderfield. – London : National Portrait Gallery, 2013

If Dogs Run Free / illustrated by Scott Campbell. – New York : Atheneum, 2013

The Lyrics Since 1962 / edited by Christopher Ricks, Lisa Nemrow and Julie Nemrow. – New York : Simon & Schuster, 2014

If Not for You / illustrated by David Walker . – New York : Atheneum, 2016



Bob Dylan (1962)
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)
Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Blonde On Blonde (1966)
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (1967)
John Wesley Harding (1968)
Nashville Skyline (1969)
Self Portrait (1970)
New Morning (1970)
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1971)
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)
Dylan (1973)
Planet Waves (1974)
Before The Flood (1974)
Blood On The Tracks (1975)
The Basement Tapes (1975)
Desire (1976)
Hard Rain (1976)
Street Legal (1978)
Bob Dylan At Budokan (1978)
Slow Train Coming (1979)
Saved (1980)
Shot Of Love (1981)
Infidels (1983)
Real Live (1984)
Empire Burlesque (1985)
Biograph (1985)
Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
Down In The Groove (1988)
Dylan & The Dead (1989)
Oh Mercy (1989)
Under The Red Sky (1990)
The Bootleg Series Vols. 13: Rare And Unreleased 19611991 (1991)
Good As I Been to You (1992)
World Gone Wrong (1993)
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 3 (1994)
MTV Unplugged (1995)
The Best Of Bob Dylan (1997)
The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute (1997)
Time Out Of Mind (1997)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966: The ’Royal Albert Hall’ Concert(1998)
The Essential Bob Dylan (2000)
”Love And Theft” (2001)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5: Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue (2002)
Masked And Anonymous: The Soundtrack (2003)
Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan (2003)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Live 1964: Concert At Philharmonic Hall (2004)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: No Direction HomeThe Soundtrack (2005)
Live At The Gaslight 1962 (2005)
Live At Carnegie Hall 1963 (2005)
Modern Times (2006)
The Traveling Wilburys Collection (2007)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare And Unreleased19892006(2008)
Together Through Life (2009)
Christmas In The Heart (2009)
The Original Mono Recordings (2010)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 19621964 (2010)
Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy Of Sun (2011)
Timeless (2011)
Tempest (2012)
The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams (2011)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (2013)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete (2014)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 19651966 (2015)
Shadows In The Night (2015)
Fallen Angels (2016)



Dont Look Back / D. A. Pennebaker, 1967
Eat the Document / D. A. Pennebaker, Howard Alk, Bob Dylan, 1971
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid / Sam Peckinpah, 1973
Renaldo & Clara / Bob Dylan, 1978
The Last Waltz / Martin Scorsese, 1978
Hard to Handle / Gillian Armstrong, 1986
Hearts of Fire / Richard Marquand, 1987
Masked and Anonymous / Larry Charles ; written by Bob Dylan and Larry Charles, 2003
No Direction Home / Martin Scorsese, 2005
I’m Not There / Todd Haynes, 2007
The Other Side of the Mirror : Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival,19631965. / Murray Lerner, 2007


Works in French

Tarantula / traduit de l’anglais par Dashiell Hedayat. – Paris : C. Bourgois, 1972. – Traduction de: Tarantula

Écrits et dessins : “mars 1962décembre 1970″ / traduit de l’anglais par Robert Louit et Didier Pemerle. – Paris : Seghers, 1975. – Traduction de: Writings and Drawings

Tarantula / traduit de l’anglais par Daniel Bismuth. – Paris : Hachette, 2001. – Traduction de: Tarantula

Chroniques : volume I / traduit de l’anglais par Jean-Luc Piningre. – Paris : Fayard, 2005. – Traduction de: Chronicles : Volume One

Lyrics chansons, 19622001 / traduit de l’anglais par Robert Louit et Didier Pemerle. – Paris : Fayard, 2008. – Traduction de: Lyrics, 1962-2001


Works in Spanish

Canciones / selección, traducción y prólogo de Eduardo Chamorro. – Madrid : Alberto Corazón, 1971

George Jackson y otras canciones / selección y traducción Antonio Resines. – Madrid : Alberto Corazón, 1972

Escritos, canciones y dibujos / traducción de Carlos Álvarez. – Madrid : R. Aguilera, 1975. – Título original: Writings and Drawings

Tarántula / traducción de Horacio Quinto. – Barcelona : Producciones Editoriales, 1976. – Título original: Tarantula

Canciones I / traducción de Carlos Álvarez. – Madrid : Fundamentos, 1984

Canciones II / traducción de Carlos Álvarez. – Madrid : Fundamentos, 1985

Bob Dylan : Greatest hits volume 3 : Unplugged / traducción de Alberto Manzano. – Madrid : Celeste, 1993

Tarántula / traducción de Ignacio Renom. – Madrid : Júcar, 1996. – Título original: Tarantula

Del huracán a las tierras altas : escritos y canciones, 19751997 / traducción de Antonio J. Iriarte y Francisco J. García Cubero. – Valencia : Mirada, 1999

Crónicas / traducción de Miquel Izquierdo. – Barcelona : Global Rhythm, 2005. – Título original: Chronicles : Volume One

Tarántula / traducción de Alberto Manzano. – Barcelona : Global Rhythm, 2007. – Título original: Tarantula

Bob Dylan letras, 19622001 / traducción de Miquel Izquierdo y José Moreno. – Madrid : Global Rhythm : Alfaguara, 2007. – Título original: Lyrics : 1962-2001

Fotorretórica de Hollywood el manuscrito perdido / fotografías de Barry Feinstein ; traducción de Miquel Izquierdo. – Barcelona : Global Rhythm, 2009. – Título original: Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric


Works in Swedish

Bob Dylan / översättning av Bruno K. Öijer och Eric Fylkeson ; illustrationer av Leif Elggren. – Stockholm : Poesiförlaget i samarbete med Cavefors, 1975

Tarantula / översättning av Görgen Antonsson. – Borås : Galder, 1981. – Originalets titel: Tarantula

Tarantula / översättning av Görgen Antonsson ; efterord av Peter Glas ; afterword by Peter Glas. – Lund : Bakhåll, 1999. – Originalets titel: Tarantula

Memoarer. D. 1 / översättning av Mats Gellerfelt. – Stockholm : Prisma, 2004. – Originalets titel: Chronicles : Volume One


Works in German

Texte und Zeichnungen / übersetzt von Carl Weissner. – Frankfurt am Main : Zweitausendeins, 1975. – Originaltitel: Writings and Drawings

Tarantel = Tarantula / übersetzt von Carl Weissner. – Frankfurt am Main : Zweitausendeins, 1976. – Originaltitel: Tarantula

Songtexte 19621985 / übersetzt von Carl Weissner und Walter Hartmann. – Frankfurt am Main : Zweitausendeins, 1987. – Originaltitel: Lyrics 1962-1985

Tarantel / übersetzt von Carl Weissner ; herausgegeben von Wolfgang Smejkal. – St. Andrä-Wördern : Hannibal, 1995. – Originaltitel: Tarantula

Lyrics : 19622001 / übersetzt von Gisbert Haefs. – Hamburg : Hoffmann und Campe, 2004. – Originaltitel: Lyrics : 1962 – 2001

Chronicles. Vol. 1 / übersetzt von Kathrin Passig und Gerhard Henschel. – Hamburg : Hoffmann und Campe, 2004. – Originaltitel: Chronicles : Volume One

Lyrics / herausgegeben von Heinrich Detering. – Stuttgart : Reclam, 2008


Further reading

All Across the Telegraph A Bob Dylan Handbook / edited by Michael Gray and John Bauldie. – London : Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987

Baez, Joan, And a Voice to Sing With A Memoir. – New York : Summit, 1987

Bauldie, John, Wanted Man : In Search of Bob Dylan. – London : Black Spring Press, 1990

Bob Dylan : Dont Look Back : A Film and Book by D. A. Pennebaker. – New York : Ballantine, 1968

Bob Dylan : ein Kongreß ; Ergebnisse des Internationalen Bob Dylan-Kongresses 2006 in Frankfurt am Main / herausgegeben von Axel Honneth … – Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp, 2007

Bob Dylan : A Retrospective / edited by Craig MacGregor. – New York : William Morrow, 1972

The Bob Dylan CompanionFour Decades of Commentary / edited by Carl Benson. – New York : Schirmer, 1998

Bob Dylan In His Own Words / compiled by Barry Miles ; edited by Pearce Marchbanks. – New York : Quick Fox, 1978

Braad Thomsen, Christian & Schnack, Asger, Bob Dylan : en guide til hans plader. – København : Høst & Søn, 1998

Bream, Jon, Dylan Disc by Disc. / introductions to the albums and liner notes by Richie Unterberger. – Minneapolis : Voyageur Press, 2015

The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan / edited by Kevin J. H. Dettmar. – Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2009

Dalton, David, Det är inte mig ni söker : jakten på Bob Dylan / översättning av Christian Ekvall. – Västerås : Ica, 2013. Orig. titel: Who Is That Man?

Detering, Heinrich, Bob Dylan / översättning av Jim Jakobsson. – Göteborg : Daidalos, 2008

Detering, Heinrich, Die Stimmen aus der Unterwelt : Bob Dylans Mysterienspiele. – München : Beck, 2016

Do You Mr Jones? : Bob Dylan with the Poets and Professors / edited by Neil Corcoran. – London : Chatto & Windus, 2002

Dylan, Bob, Younger Than That Now : The Collected Interviews with Bob Dylan. – New York : Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004

Dylan on Dylan : The Essential Interviews / edited by Jonathan Cott. – London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2006

Dylan par Dylan : interviews 19622004 / édition établie par Jonathan Cott ; traduit de l’anglais par Denis Griesmar. – Paris : Bartillat, 2007. – Traduction de: Bob Dylan : The Essential Interviews

Dylan sobre Dylan 31 entrevistas memorables / edición a cargo de Jonathan Cott ; traducción de Miquel Izquierdo. – Barcelona : Global Rhythm, 2008. – Traducción de: Dylan on Dylan : The Essential Interviews

Gray, Michael, The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. – New York : Continuum, 2006 ; updated and revised version, 2008

Gray, Michael, Song and Dance Man III : The Art of Bob Dylan. – London : Cassell, 2000 [Revised version of: Song & Dance Man : The Art of Bob Dylan. – London : Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1972]

Harvey, Todd, The Formative Dylan : Transmission and Stylistic Influences 19611963. – Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2001

Havers, Franz W., Bob Dylans surrealistische Songpoesie ; Thesis. – Frankfurt am Main : P. Lang, 1986

Heylin, Clinton, Behind the Shades Revisited. – New York : William Morrow, 2001

Heylin, Clinton, Bob Dylan : Behind the Shades : A Biography. – New York : Summit, 1991

Heylin, Clinton, Bob Dylan : A Life in Stolen Moments : Day by Day 19411995. – New York : Schirmer, 1996

Heylin, Clinton, Bob Dylan : The Recording Sessions 19601994. – New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1995

Heylin, Clinton, Dylan Mannen, myten, musiken : En biografi / översättning av Håkan Olsson. – Lund : Wiken, 1993. – Originaltitel : Dylan : Behind the Shades

Heylin, Clinton, Revolution in the Air : The Songs of Bob Dylan 19571973. – Chicago IL. : Chicago Review Press, 2009

Heylin, Clinton, Still on the Road : The Songs of Bob Dylan 19742006. – Chicago, IL. : Chicago Review Press, 2010

Holmgren, Ola, Stickspår : Åtta skäl varför Bob Dylan borde tilldelas Nobelpriset i litteratur. – Stockholm : Carlsson, 2016

Holmquist, Göran, Bob Dylan på svenska : Bob Dylans betydelse för svensk musik & litteratur : en studie. – Gammelstad : Hjärnstorm, 1982

Holmquist, Göran, Visa oss vinden! Bob Dylan i Sverige. – Stockholm : Premium, 2002

Jacobsson, Mats, Dylan i 60talet : tematiken i Bob Dylans sångtexter och dikter 196167. – Lund : Ellerström, 2004

Jørgensen, Karsten, Bob Dylan lexikon / översättning av Thomas Nydahl. – Kristianstad : Accent, 2003. – Originaltitel: Bob Dylan leksikon

Marcus, Greil, Invisible Republic : Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes. – New York : H. Holt & Co, 1997

Marcus, Greil, Like a Rolling Stone : Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. – London : Faber & Faber, 2006

Margotin, Philippe & Jean-Michel Guesdon, Bob Dylan : la totale les 492 chansons expliquées. – Vanves : Chêne, 2015

Marshall, Lee, Bob Dylan : The Never Ending Star. – Cambridge : Polity, 2007

Medcalf, Lawrence Donald, The Rhetoric of Bob Dylan, 19631966 ; Thesis. – Indiana University, 1978

Myhr, Petter Fiskum, Bob Dylan : jeg er en annan. – Oslo : Historie & Kultur, 2011

Refractions of Bob Dylan : Cultural Appropriations of an American Icon / edited by Eugen Banauch. – Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2015

Rem, Håvard, Bob Dylan. – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1999

Ricks, Christopher B., Dylan’s Visions of Sin. – London : Viking, 2003

Santelli, Robert, The Bob Dylan Scrapbook : 19561966. – New York : Simon & Schuster, 2005

Scaduto, Anthony, Bob Dylan. – New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1971

Schmidt, Mathias R., Bob Dylans message songs der Sechziger Jahre und die anglo-amerikanische Tradition des sozialkritischen Liedes ; Thesis. – Frankfurt am Main : P. Lang, 1982

Scobie, Stephen, Alias Bob Dylan. – Red Deer, Alta. : Red Deer College Press, 1991

Scobie, Stephen, Alias Bob Dylan revisited. – Calgary : Red Deer Press, 2003

Shelton, Robert, No Direction Home : The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. – New York : Beech Tree, 1986 ; revised edition: Milwaukee : Backbeat, 2011

Snow, Craig R., Folksinger and Beat Poet : The Prophetic Vision of Bob Dylan ; Thesis. – Purdue University, 1987

Sounes, Howard, Down the Highway The Life of Bob Dylan.– New York : Grove Press, 2001 ; updated edition 2011
Sounes, Howard, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan : biografin / översättning av Hans Björkegren. – Stockholm : Norstedt, 2001. – Orig. titel: Down the Highway :The Life of Bob Dylan

Spitz, Bob, Dylan : A Biography. – New York : McGraw-Hill, 1989

Tang, Jesper, Bob Dylan smiler!.– København : Borgen, 1972

Taylor, Jeff & Israelson, Chad, The Political World of Bob Dylan : Freedom and Justice, Power and Sin. – New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

Trager, Oliver, Keys to the Rain : The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. – New York : Billboard, 2004

Wilentz, Sean, Bob Dylan in America. – New York : Doubleday, 2010

Williams, Paul, Performing Artist : The Music of Bob Dylan. – Novato, Calif. : Underwood-Miller, 1990

Williams, Paul, Performing Artist 19601973 : The Early Years. – Novato, Calif. : Underwood-Miller, 1991

Williams, Paul, Performing Artist 19741986 : The Middle Years. – Novato, Calif. : Underwood-Miller, 1992

Williams, Paul, Performing Artist 19861990 & Beyond : Mind Out Of Time. – London : Omnibus, 2004

Wissolik, Richard David, McGrath, Scott & Colaianne, A. J., Bob Dylan’s Words A Critical Dictionary and Commentary. – Greensburg, PA : Eadmer Press, 1994

Yaffe, David, Bob Dylan : Like a Complete Unknown. – London : Yale University Press, 2011

Young, Izzy, The Conscience of the Folk Revival The Writings of Israel ”Izzy” Young / edited by Scott Barretta. – Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2013


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