Dylan's Never Ending Tour fails to stop for Nobel literature prize

Fifty years of protest has culminated in the world's top award for writers.

Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature follows a long tradition of surprises among award winners. They range from the most obscure writers in barely read languages to, in this case, the other extremity of widespread popularity. 

Dylan, 75, was cited by the Nobel judges at the Swedish Academy for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

He is the first American to win the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993.

The choice also upset most punters, with perennial favourite Haruki Murakami (5/1), of Japan, and Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o (4/1) topping the odds at Ladbrokes, the UK betting agency.

The Syrian poet Adonis was at 6/1 and American novelist Philip Roth, another perennial favourite, at 12/1.

Dylan himself was on Ladbrokes' list at 50/1, the same as Italian author Elena Ferrante, a pen name for a writer whose identity was recently outed as Rome-based translator Anita Raja.

50 years of protest
Dylan’s career has spanned more than 50 years, starting with social protest and anti-war songs “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” in the 1960s.

Since 1988, he has constantly presented concerts around the under the title Never Ending Tour. This has included appearances in New Zealand as recently as 2014 when he performed in Hamilton and Christchurch.

Typically, he was uncontactable by the Academy when the announcement of the eight million Swedish kroner ($1.3 million) prize was made as he was on tour somewhere in the US (Las Vegas, it turned out).

That is not unusual for the reticent star, whose concerts are noted for their lack of chit-chat, demonstrative gestures or audience engagement.

In 2013, when France gave him the country’s highest cultural award, the Légion d’Honneur, cameras weren’t allowed for the very brief ceremony in Paris.

Dylan’s life and career has been studied by scores of scholars and other artists. His tale inspired the 2007 biographical feature film, I’m Not There, in which half a dozen actors, including Cate Blanchett, portrayed him at various stages in his life.

On his website, links to media coverage and profiles of the artist are listed under the tab “Hype.”

Early days
Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan played in multiple bands as a teenager. He moved to New York in 1961, where he began performing in clubs around Greenwich Village.

This milieu was depicted by the Coen brothers in their film Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). 

The debut album Bob Dylan (1962) was followed by enormously influential releases including 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited, 1966’s Blonde on Blonde and 1975’s Blood On The Tracks.

In November, a 36-CD box set titled The 1966 Live Recordings will features “every known recording from the 1966 tour of the US, UK, Europe & Australia.”

His publisher, Simon & Schuster, plans to accelerate the publication of a new edition of his complete, revised lyrics, originally scheduled for release in November.

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