Nobel: Getting it right...

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Opinion, DC Comment

Some writers have called him a brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition.

Bob Dylan (Photo: AP)

The Times They Are a-Changin’. Yes, indeed they must be if a songwriter wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. But the answer was always Blowin’ in the Wind as the world has been crying out for inclusiveness so long. In picking Bob Dylan, the poet and singer who first rocked the world 50 years ago with an electric guitar, the Nobel committee has made a very radical choice. The music world couldn’t be happier, welcoming the onetime rebel who electrified young people opposing the Vietnam War and inspired the US civil rights movement. It’s a changed world today that honours a musician as a litterateur.

The literary elite is of course in shock, unable to sense the nuances behind this novel approach to a prized award. Do song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels, they ask. But given the vagueness of many recent choices, the last of which honoured narratives based on an oral tradition, Dylan’s choice represents contemporary chic even if it confers an award for a whole body of writing rather than one stunning insight in the form of a book or a poem; and recognises an authentic voice rather than just words. The fact that Dylan was in that most artificial of modern havens — Las Vegas — during the announcement is somewhat pertinent to the message for modernity. Some writers have called him a brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Should we lament if the gap between high art and more commercial forms of creativity is closing, particularly in today’s wired world?

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