Dylan's silence 'impolite and arrogant'

NEW YORK • The saga of Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize continues.

He became the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this month, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics had the same artistic value as novels and poetry. But he has made no public statements and a brief reference added to his website ("Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature") was quickly removed after the news media caught wind of it.

His ambivalence towards one of the world's most prestigious honours appears to have begun to wear on the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize. "One can say that it is impolite and arrogant," an academy member, writer Per Wastberg, told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter last Saturday, according to a translation by The Associated Press. "He is who he is."

After Dylan's 2016 Nobel Prize was announced, Ms Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said she did not know if he would attend the award ceremony in December because she had not been able to get in touch with him. Wastberg said the committee would not try to contact him again.

"We have agreed not to lift a finger. The ball lies entirely on his half," he said. "You can speculate as much as you want but we don't."

The Swedish Academy moved quickly last Saturday to distance itself from Wastberg's remarks. Ms Danius said in a statement that every person awarded a Nobel Prize can make his or her own decision about how to respond.

"This is Mr Wastberg's private opinion and is not to be taken as the official standpoint of the Swedish Academy."

Wastberg's criticisms, however, were met with amusement. "Nobel's fan crush on Dylan seems to be turning sour," novelist Hari Kunzru posted on Twitter. "Soon they'll be stalking him and send weird stuff in the mail."

Mr James Wolcott, a columnist for Vanity Fair, noted that Dylan's lack of response was not the same as actively turning down the prize as some laureates, like Jean-Paul Sartre, have done. "'That's just Dylan being Dylan.' You could substitute any egotist's name in that formulation," he said on Twitter. "Trump being Trump. Kanye being Kanye."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Dylan's silence 'impolite and arrogant''. Print Edition | Subscribe