"Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days."
Bob Dylan, Los Angeles, 4 June, 2017
Read and listen
Read the Nobel Lecture on Svenska Akademiens webbpage:
Sidney, Australia, 13 April 1966
Montreal, Canada, 4 December 1975
Gothenburg, Sweden, 9 June 1984
Stockholm, Sweden, Lollipop Festival, 27 July 1996
Stockholm, Sweden, Globe Arena, 28 March 2007
Lund, Sweden, 9 April 2017
The announcement of the Nobel Prize in literature has never before caused such excitement. But for thousands of admirers it was the obvious choice.
Bob Dylan finally received the Nobel Prize in Literature. For more than 30 years thousands of his admirers have demanded that his artistry should be recognized. It goes without saying that the editor of this page has been one of them.
For many people it came as a shock of joy when Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, announced the prize winner in October 2016. Others accepted the news with great surprise.
Then there was some bosh about receiving the prize. For sure there are one or two hopefuls sitting there in the middle of the night, waiting for a call from the Academy. Bob Dylan doesn't do that.
Dylan is a hardworking artist who year after year performs his literary works in some 100 concerts on scenes all over the world. At the time of the prize announcement a full tour was rolling on the American Westcoast. Under those circumstances job and audience are Dylan's main priorities.
Although Dylan couldn't be present at the festivities in December he was given great attention. A splendid speech of thanks was read by US Ambassador Azita Raji at the Nobel Banquet and at the Prize Ceremony Patti Smith delivered an unforgettable version of Dylan's masterpiece "A Hard Rain 's A-Gonna Fall".
When the " Never Ending Tour" reached Stockholm in April this year the Academy met with Dylan to hand him the Medal and Diploma. But what happened to the traditional Nobel Lecture? Stay calm all skeptics and disdainers! The lecture has arrived.
On 5 June the Academy received the lecture - a recorded soundfile with corresponding text. A brilliant document. Listen to Dylan's own reading and follow the original text or the clever translation by Swedish writer Horace Engdahl.
Eight favorite Dylan records
The recollection of literary influences from his adolescence and an entrancing review of three classic works is read in an evocative manner. Especially his thoughts on "All Quiet on the Western Front" gives a strong impression. That book is really, as Dylan says, a horror story.
There are special passages in the lecture that confirm the thoughts of many Dylan fans. Dylan points, for example, at the many influences that can lie embedded in a certain songtext and that it isn't always easy to understand what it all means. This doesn't bother Dylan. "If a song moves you, that's all that's important" he says and adds that "you want your songs to sound good."
Great! Let us without shame be seduced by "Desolation Row" with the many wonderful and incomprehensible verses.
Dylan strongly underlines that the songs are "meant to be sung, not read." You could of course read the texts alone with great value or listen only to the music. But the literary text can only be perceived as it was intended when it is performed together with the music. And in these performances lies the unique artistry of Bob Dylan.
Thank you, Swedish Academy, for the historic choice of Nobel laureate in literature for 2016.