Folks, it finally happened. Mister Bob Dylan — A.K.A. the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate — has recorded his acceptance speech for the Swedish Academy, and you can listen to it right now! I’ve pulled the five best quotes from Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize lecture for you below, but it’s well worth listening to the full 27 minutes of Dylan’s amble through his literary influences.
It’s been a long and narrow way to here for Dylan, whose Nobel win has been controversial, to say the least, since it was announced last October. The folk musician gave a signature, cryptic response to the good news, leading many Internet denizens to denounce him as disrespectful of the honor, an opinion that resurfaced when Dylan revealed that he would be unable to attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony in December. Booksellers wondered if Dylan’s win would hurt their bottom line, and conventional authors came down hard on the Swedish Academy, prompting none other than Stephen King himself to come to Dylan’s defense.
No amount of criticism will change the fact that Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” A masterful poet, Dylan deserves his Nobel win, and his prize lecture will convince you, if nothing else will.
“I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world, and I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school: ‘Don Quixote,’ ‘Ivanhoe,’ ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ all the rest, typical grammar school reading. They gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics, and the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally.”
2“‘Moby Dick’ is a fascinating book, a book that’s filled with scenes of high drama and dramatic dialogue. The book makes demands on you. . . . This book tells how different men react in different ways to the same experience. . . . That theme, and all that it implies, would work its way into more than a few of my songs.”
3“‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is a horror story. This is a book where you lose your childhood, your faith in a meaningful world, and your concern for individuals. . . . Once you loved life, and the world. Now you’re shooting it to pieces.”
4“‘The Odyssey’ is a strange, adventurous tale of a grown man trying to get home after fighting in a war. He’s on that long journey home, and it’s filled with traps and pitfalls. He’s cursed to wander.”
5“So what does it all mean? . . . If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important.”