Curious Case of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan

Well for a man who’s not there… this is quite warm to come out and suggest that he may make it to the Nobel ceremony. After all, what’s really an award? A vanity affair of sorts. A PR activity in the name of recognizing an achievement that is beyond the award itself. Sorry, Nobel prize committee. If I happen to win one, years from now, someone may pull out this comment and say heck, this guy said that. Its so un-academic or whatever. But, its true. They say Alfred Nobel gave up his wealth earned from the invention of Dynamite to constitute this award. We don’t really know what his true intentions might have been. Maybe it was seeking redemption or maybe to publicly repent in an effort to improve image tarnished due to the association with an invention that came to be seen by many as an agent of death. Come to think of it, no invention in itself is bad. However, the public perception can put an inventor to guilt. Same peer pressure may coerce Dylan to travel to Stockholm.

Then again, Dylan is Dylan. He has chosen to live by his rules and I respect that. He probably exemplifies the Nietzschean philosophy of an artist who seeks to create things to make sense of the world that is essentially absurd. For him, getting an award is the outcome of that act of creation and not the other way around. If only Nobel Prize committee be so egoistic to think that the awardees do great work because they want a prize then there’s nothing more wrong. Its certainly an honor to be invited to the ceremony but nothing of consequence greater than being told by your mom that she’s proud of you or knowing that you’ve made a difference in the world. That leaves us with the question of prize money. Secretly, its the thing that makes most people wonder more about the actions of Bob Dylan. If he does take the money, I think it would be most interesting to see what he does with it. Maybe, we’ll never know but again, its none of our business.

Basically, what the media today is doing to him is exactly what they always did (Even before his time at Andy Warhol’s factory where he almost became a cultural oddity) – turn his interactions with the world into memes so that people can access at least a version of him. I say its a fair barter for a man who would despise the same limelight that makes him so important. Its completely understandable to be not understandable or not wanting to be understood. It’s up to Nobel committee to justify their choice, why they think Dylan deserves an award. Consequently they did in an article. So, now if they can’t reach him or get him to write a speech or to attend the ceremony then its their embarrassment. He simply chooses to be the center and quite justifiably so.

Kudos to the Swedish Academy for going all the way in finding the man. If they can give me his address then I can maybe send him a letter that I wrote to him many years ago and then archived it. Contents of the letter shall forever remain private. Btw, since it is widely reported that he’s the first musician or songwriter or poet to be awarded a Nobel for Literature, this is not entirely accurate. Before Bob Dylan, Rabindranath Tagore received the Nobel in 1913 for his collected works of poetry and songs “Gitanjali” (Literally translated as Song Offerings). Tagore had to face similar concerns way back in his days as he too was not being awarded for prose. Much like how there was some early skepticism about Dylan winning the award. Though, that argument is already settled in the statement from Nobel committee. They could have just cited Tagore’s case. Anyway, all this is pretty amusing to me. Not so much to my millennial friend who is not sure who or what is Bob Dylan.


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