The Swedish Academy announced that it had received a letter from Bob Dylan saying that he would be unable to attend the 2016 Nobel Ceremony that will be held on December 10 in Stockholm.
Dylan famously made headlines earlier this year when he became the first musician to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, then garnered more attention when the Swedish Academy was unable to get in touch with him regarding the award.
Bob reportedly ignored repeated emails and phone calls from the Academy and would not make a statement regarding the award, leading one member of the Academy to describe him as “impolite and arrogant.” A brief reference to the award was posted on his website for less than 24 hours before it was removed.
However, later in October, Bob Dylan finally spoke to The Telegraph regarding the nomination, clarifying that he would accept the award and would try to attend the ceremony. “It’s hard to believe,” he said.
“Amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?”
Dylan also finally got in touch with the Academy, telling them “The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless … I appreciate the honor so much.”
Despite his promises to attempt to attend the ceremony, however, Bob Dylan has now pulled out. According to a statement issued by the Academy, Dylan “explained that due to pre-existing commitments, he is unable to travel to Stockholm in December and therefore will not attend the Nobel Prize ceremony.”
He is not the first Nobel prize nominee who was unable to attend the ceremony; others have declined to attend for reasons such as illness and social anxiety. The Academy said it respects his decision, calling it “unusual, but not exceptional.”
“We are looking forward to Bob Dylan’s Nobel lecture, which he must hold, according to the requirements, within six months,” the Academy statement added.
Although it remains unclear who will accept the award on Dylan’s behalf, more information regarding his award ceremony is expected Friday.
Bob is the first American recipient of the Nobel Literature Prize since 1993, when the Academy awarded the prize to author Toni Morrison, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”
Dylan’s press secretary, Sara Danius, said the songwriter’s work was worth comparing to Greek classics.
“If you look back, far back, 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to, they were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, and it’s the same way with Bob Dylan. But we still read Homer and Sappho… and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read,” Danius said.
“Some [of my own] songs – Blind Willie, The Ballad of Hollis Brown, Joey, A Hard Rain, Hurricane, and some others – definitely are Homeric in value,” Dylan agreed in his Telegraph interview, but added, “I’ll let other people decide what they are. The academics, they ought to know. I’m not really qualified. I don’t have any opinion.”
When the Swedish Academy announced that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it issued a statement explaining the award was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
The decision was met with mixed reaction, with some criticizing the Academy for awarding a musician the prize and other praising it for recognizing songwriting in the role of literary tradition. A New York Times article said the award was “redefining the boundaries of literature,” while Slate said he should not have gotten the prize despite his influence.
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