Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Speech Invokes Shakespeare, Hemingway

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize banquet speech, in acceptance of his highly-publicized 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature award, was delivered in absentia on Saturday by Azita Raji, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden. Dylan, himself, did not attend the awards ceremony or succeeding banquet, instead sending revered musician Patti Smith in his place. Smith sang a rendition of Bob’s classic “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” at the Nobel Prize ceremony.

As reported by The A.V. Club, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize speech made reference to the worldwide impact of “giants of literature” such as Ernest Hemingway and Albert Camus, both authors honored by Dylan as personal literary influences as well as previous recipients of the highly-regarded Nobel Prize in Literature. The complete text of Bob Dylan’s banquet speech from Saturday is now available to read on the Nobel Prize official website.

Earlier this year, there was much confusion and contention regarding the Nobel Foundation’s announcement of Bob Dylan as a Nobel Prize in Literature honoree — the award is normally reserved for authors and journalists, not songwriters. Further uncertainty ensued when Bob seemingly ignored the Nobel announcement for weeks, eventually recognizing the honor only to pass on actually attending the ceremony in Sweden.

A man reads a book about Bob Dylan at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair.
Bob Dylan books at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair alongside an advertisement for his Nobel Prize. [Image by by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images]

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize speech recognized the many masters of literature that have preceded him. In the speech, Bob called out numerous authors who have been previously bestowed with the Nobel Foundation’s literary award.

“From an early age, I’ve been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway.”

Dylan also admitted that he never could have possibly guessed that he would be accepting the award one day, himself. True to form, Dylan alluded to “standing on the moon” as a feat with as much probability as him receiving a Nobel Prize in Literature.

“If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon.”

Bob’s speech also made multiple parallels to the work of beloved playwright William Shakespeare, a figure deemed by many as the father of modern literature. In the text of the speech, Dylan compares his work ethic in music to that of Shakespeare’s in the theater — namely, that both he and the Bard were both so busy creating their work, that neither artist would necessarily have had the time handy to ruminate on certain awards bestowals.

Musician Bob Dylan and actress Jessica Lange pose for photographers at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
Bob Dylan, bewigged, with actress Jessica Lange in 2003. [Image by by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]

Further developing his self-made comparison to Shakespeare in the speech, Bob Dylan (who is also frequently called “the Bard” of songwriting) seemingly explained his previous reticence in recognizing and accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature award by admitting that he has never had the time to even consider the fact of his catalog as a literary work.

“Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?'”

During the Nobel Prize ceremony, Patti Smith’s delivery of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was sprinkled with apparent lyrical difficulties, as reported by the Guardian. “I am so nervous,” Patti told the audience, as she forgot one lyric of Bob Dylan’s famous song and started the section again. Regardless, the performance from Smith was met with applause and the singer finished Bob’s classic song in a reportedly emotional performance.

Do you think Bob Dylan deserves a Nobel Prize in Literature? What do you think about Bob’s references to William Shakespeare in his Nobel Prize banquet speech? Let us know your thoughts on Bob Dylan in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]