RSS
Did Bob Dylan deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature?
The music legend was pegged by many as a favorite to win — but in the end, the harmonica-toting wordsmith lost out to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer
The idea of lyrics-as-literature has been gaining support, and would have received a major boost had Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature.
The idea of lyrics-as-literature has been gaining support, and would have received a major boost had Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Brooks Kraft/Corbis
N

obel Prize winner Bob Dylan? As of late Wednesday night, it looked like that might just be the case, with British gamblers pegging the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as an odds-on favorite to be awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. Alas, the odds-they-were-a-changin', as the Nobel committee announced early Thursday morning that Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer is this year's recipient of the prestigious award. The prospect of Dylan's winning had many excited with the hope that it would "lend major credibility to the idea of song lyrics as literature." Others are relieved he didn't win, dismissing the whole thing as a PR stunt. Should Dylan have been honored?

Yes. He was robbed: Not only does Dylan deserve a Nobel prize, but he's long overdue, says Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune. When it comes to "multi-faceted language with a sustained international impact, few if any rivals are Dylan's equal." His body of work is incomparable, he's taken music as a medium to an entirely different place artistically and politically, and — though song lyrics aren't typically considered "serious literature" — his work appears in poetry anthologies and his lyrics are analyzed alongside the most acclaimed poets'.
"Nobel for Dylan would be all right, ma"

Dylan was never going to win: First off, he's too famous, says Kevin Canfield at Salon. The committee has tended recently to award lesser-known writers. Plus, Dylan already possesses a packed trophy case. It's unlikely that the Nobel committee wanted "to play second fiddle to the Pulitzers (not to mention the Grammys, the Oscars, or the Golden Globes)." Combine that with the bad press he's received recently — accusations of plagiarism and criticism for performing in China — and Dylan's victory was always a pipe dream.
"Why Bob Dylan won't win the Nobel Prize"

Besides, the actual winner really deserved it: Tomas Transtromer has been "slowly and painstakingly" writing poems in Stockholm for nearly 60 years, says John Freeman at NPR. After being a perennial favorite for the prize, it's about time he won it. His work, remarkable for its "intense and beautiful stillness," has been translated into more than 50 languages over the years. Transtromer is "forever reminding us that the world is not what it appears to be; that with mindfulness and close attention, you might get a glimpse of something vast and strange." For that, he's a worthy victor.
"Nobel Literature winner Tomas Transtromer: The beauty of stillness"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week