Bob Dylan, in Absentia, Awarded His Nobel

Pal Patti Smith picks up distinguished prize in Stockholm for influential musician

Bob Dylan was officially awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature today at a Stockholm, Sweden, ceremony — which he did not attend. The event was streamed live on Youtube as musician Patti Smith performed a cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” — forgetting some of the words out of sheer nerves, she said, and apologizing to the crowd while still on stage.

Swedish Academy professor Horace Engdahl gave an introduction before the award was presented, addressing the fact that a songwriter was winning a literary award: “Does he get the prize for upsetting the system of literature? Not really. There is a simpler explanation.”

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He continued, “[Nicolas] Chamfort made the observation that when a master such as La Fontaine appears, the hierarchy of genres — the estimation of what is great and small, high and low in literature — is nullified. ‘What matter the rank of a work when its beauty is of the highest rank?’ he wrote. That is the straight answer to the question of how Bob Dylan belongs in literature: The beauty of his songs is of the highest rank.”

How the 75-year-old Dylan feels about his Nobel Prize win has been of great speculation. In addition to not attending the event, Dylan remained unusually silent after his win was announced in October. The following month, Dylan revealed he would not be attending the December 10th ceremony.

Related: Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature (Of Course)

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The Swedish Academy, which makes the annual decision on Nobel literary winners, revealed that Dylan had broken the news of his imminent absence in a personal letter. “He wishes he could receive the prize personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible,” they said, according to the Associated Press.

Dylan is required to give a Nobel lecture within six months of his win, though one is not yet scheduled. The Swedish Academy revealed in a statement that Dylan will possibly give the speech in the spring when he may be performing in Stockholm.

Though many can get behind any sort of recognition for the massively influential Dylan, his unusual behavior surrounding his Nobel win has many scratching their heads. Without a direct explanation from Dylan, it seems the singer-songwriter is either disinterested in awards recognition at this late stage in his career, or he may hold personal feelings about the Nobel Prizes.

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Though the prizes hold great weight, they have come under public scrutiny before for various selections of winners — like when President Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, only a short while after his first election to office. Obama won the prize with almost no diplomatic record — and despite the fact that he would later back down on his promises to end the wars.

On November 30th, Dylan also skipped the formality of a meet-and-greet held by the president with Nobel Prize winners. Why? Like the rest of Dylan’s treatment of his win, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

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