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BOOKS >Swedish Academy receives Bob Dylan’s Nobel lecture

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Bob Dylan has completed his Nobel course requirements. The Swedish Academy announced on June 5 that it has received the mandatory lecture from the 2016 literature winner, enabling Dylan to collect 8 million Swedish kronor ($922,000) in prize money. 

Spokeswoman Sara Danius described Dylan’s talk in a news release as “extraordinary” and “eloquent.” Nobel Prize officials said the 26-minute talk was recorded on Sunday in Los Angeles and an audio clip is posted on the academy’s website, www.nobelprize.org.

Danius said its delivery to the academy meant that “the Dylan adventure is coming to a close.” 

Dylan, widely regarded as the most influential songwriter of his time, received the Nobel Literature diploma and medal in April but was still required to give a speech to receive the money. Dylan took weeks to publicly acknowledge even winning the prize, announced in October and greeted with both joy and dismay that a rock star had received an honor previously given to William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alice Munro among others. He did not attend December’s Nobel ceremony in Stockholm and his acceptance remarks were read by the United States Ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji.

Dylan’s songs have drawn on literary influences from Beat poetry to Anton Chekhov and his recording was a celebration of books and music and of the common language among art forms. In a warm, raspy delivery, with lounge-style piano in the background, he called Buddy Holly his first musical hero, praised his “imaginative verses” and remembered seeing him in concert not long before Holly died in a 1959 plane crash.
“Something about him seemed permanent and he filled me with conviction,” Dylan said of seeing Holly on stage. “Then out of the blue, the most uncanny thing happened, he looked at me right straight there in the eye and he transmitted something, something I didn’t know what. It gave me the chills.”

Dylan said that folk songs were his earliest musical vocabulary, but that books such as “Ivanhoe” and “Don Quixote” helped shape his view of the world and inspire him to write songs “unlike anything anybody had ever heard.” From the start, he believed in absorbing classical texts and the vernacular of the day.

He discussed three works at length: “Moby Dick,” (a reminder we “see only the surface of things”), “All Quiet On the Western Front” (in which “death is everywhere, nothing else is possible”) and “The Odyssey,” a “strange, adventurous tale” he likened to such modern pop songs as Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound.” He concluded by noting that Shakespeare’s words were meant to be spoken, “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,” he said. “I return once again to Homer, who says, ‘Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.’”

June/06/2017

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