On Thursday morning I grabbed my phone as soon as I woke up so that I could check my email because I’ve been waiting on a really important email lately. It sadly still wasn’t there, so I switched to check my newsfeed. And the headlines Nobel Prize in Literature is Awarded to Bob Dylan screamed at me from dozens of different news outlets.
My first thoughts were a hodgepodge of shock, confusion, disappointment. What about Haruki Murakami? He’s been the frontrunner for so many years. This was supposed to be his year – everyone knows it!
I really was beyond shocked. So many of these headlines identified him as Bob Dylan, Musician as if they had to clarify up front that he was not a writer, and I just kept thinking, am I the only one seeing this? He is a musician. So why is he being included in a category that is for literature?
A lot of people are defending the choice of the Swedish Academy for selecting Dylan by saying that they were going for a broad interpretation of “literature”, such that he’s deserving of the win because his work is poetry. Okay, yes but…it’s not like he wrote every single song by himself, nor did he write in poetry form, nor did he publish books of poetry. The fact that they had to distinguish him first as a musician should say it all.
Not only was I wondering what Murakami must think of this, but I was wondering what all of the talented writers across the world must think of this? I am not saying that Dylan is not deserving because by all means he can be, but he’s already been recognized and has received lots of awards and even Grammy’s. There is surely not a shortage of writers in the world, so why pick a musician?
Then I saw this New York Times article and I felt so much better. The writer, Anna North, said everything I was thinking:
“…Yes, Mr. Dylan is a brilliant lyricist. Yes, he has written a book of prose poetry and an autobiography. Yes, it is possible to analyze his lyrics as poetry. But Mr. Dylan’s writing is inseparable from his music. He is great because he is a great musician, and when the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer.
As reading declines around the world, literary prizes are more important than ever. A big prize means a jump in sales and readership even for a well-known writer. But more than that, awarding the Nobel to a novelist or a poet is a way of affirming that fiction and poetry still matter, that they are crucial human endeavors worthy of international recognition…Instead, the committee gave the prize to a man who is internationally famous in another field, one with plenty of honors of its own. Bob Dylan does not need a Nobel Prize in Literature, but literature needs a Nobel Prize. This year, it won’t get one.”
I wholeheartedly agree with every line of this opinion piece and if you have the chance I’d highly recommend reading it. It saddens me so much that he was given this award. Writers are not recognized as much as they should be, and the Nobel committee has a chance every year to do something to change that. And this year they dropped the ball.