The Nobel Song

Hundreds of people waited to enjoy a concert in the Dr. Phillips Theater last month. Inside, it was Bob Dylan. Even though he only sang, played the piano and blew his harmonica, all the people in the audience had the chance to see, maybe for the first and only time in their lives, a literature Nobel laureate.

Dylan published a book, Tarantula, in 1966, but the Royal Academy gave the prize to the songwriter due to his “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” With this decision, Dylan joined the exquisite group names such as Hemingway, Camus, Neruda, Yeats or Andrić conform.
No everybody in the literature world received this nomination with pleasantly, the Russian born writer Gary Shteyngart stated, “I totally get the Nobel committee. Reading books is hard.” The sarcasm who joined by surprise all around the globe. The enthusiasts of Claudio Magris or Haruki Murakami, who have not won the prize, were among the ones the announcement surprised the most.

Others such Salman Rushdie backed the Academy for deciding in favor of the singer. The best-seller writer Stephen King wrote an apologetic article in Rolling Stones to praise the Blowin’ in the Wind author.

By doing this, the Swedish Academy opened another question in 2016. Could any other singer obtain the Literature Nobel again after the criticism this decision entailed? Other people also asked why Bob Dylan and not Paul Simon? For instance. This kind of questions have always existed among the writers and I could even bitter among popular artists. The scholars have posed the same question on why Camilo José Cela and not Jorge Luis Borges, why John Steinbeck and not F. Scott Fitzgerald; however, now with a broader public, the critics go far beyond the literary world.

However, the opened question have other implications. Should the Academy open a prize for the popular culture? if so, Would it implied that the literature shouldn´t be considered an ordinary matter? What should happen with those songwriters who also have a literary career such as Chico Buarque? Buarque’s songs have a Brazilian-Dylan style, besides he is an awarded writer whose work has enjoyed excellent reviews: two of his six novels have received the Prêmio Jabuti, the book of the year in Brazil. Besides, Buarque has written several plays.

Chico Burque receives the Bravo prize to the Brazilian best book in 2009 Photo: CPFL Cultura

The Cuban singer, composer, cartoonist and poet Silvio Rodríguez, masters his language and many people consider his lyrics to have a fine sophistication, regardless of his advocacy to the Cuban Revolution. Something similar happens with the Serbian singer Djordje Balašević, distinguished for his speeches during his musical performances.

Lluis Llach on his Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Girona, Spain. Photo: University of Girona

Recently, the Catalonian pro-independence composer and singer Lluis Llach, whose songs explore spaces similar to Dylan’s, published his fourth novel in 2017, his first work, Memòria d’uns ulls pintats, received excellent comments.

Dylan was in Orlando; few were there to get their copies of Tarantula signed.