Slow Train Coming: Dylan in Stockholm to accept Nobel

Slow Train Coming: Dylan in Stockholm to accept Nobel
File photo: Vince Bucci/AP/TT
After months of controversy, Bob Dylan is in Stockholm to finally grab his Nobel literature prize in a meeting with the Swedish Academy, which awarded him for his poetry.

The first songwriter to receive the prestigious award, Dylan has joined the league of Nobel laureates including Thomas Mann, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Doris Lessing.

At a secret time and place, the famously reclusive Dylan is to receive his Nobel diploma and medal in a closed meeting with the members of the Swedish Academy, which elects the winners of the literature prize.

“The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan's wishes,” Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Academy said in a blog post.

He is set to perform concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Stockholm, the first stop on a long-planned European tour.

But the 75-year-old rock enigma will not give his traditional Nobel lecture during the meeting, the only requirement to receive the eight million kronor (836,000 euros, $895,000) that comes with the prize.

“If you want something to go towards a certain direction, then he will go towards the opposite direction. This is what he's done in his entire career,” Martin Nystrom, a music critic at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, told AFP.

“He's very unpredictable.”

New poetic expressions

The clock is ticking for Dylan who has until June 10 to deliver his lecture, which could be anything from a short speech to a performance, a video broadcast or even a song.

Failing that he risks losing the prize money.

“The Academy has reason to believe that a taped version will be sent at a later point,” Danius said, without specifying an exact date.

The songwriter of “Blowin' In The Wind”, “Hurricane” and  “Mr. Tambourine Man” was honoured “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” the Nobel committee said when the award was announced last October.

“Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, 'Are my songs literature?'” Dylan said later in a thank-you speech read aloud by the US ambassador to Sweden during the December Nobel ceremony  in Stockholm, which he snubbed due to “pre-existing commitments”.

The folk singer has been mentioned in Nobel speculation in past years, but was never seen as a serious contender.

But Dylan cruised past prominent US novelists of his age range such as Don DeLillo and Philip Roth — to say nothing of late, quintessentially 1960s writers such as Jack Kerouac — to be the first American to win the award in more than two decades.

'I'm right here'

While Danius, a fervent Dylan fan, has defended her choice and that of her peers, Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, author of “Trainspotting”, mocked the prize “awarded by senile hippies”.

Dylan kept silent for weeks after he was announced as the winner and when he was asked at the time why he did not respond to the Academy's calls, he told the Daily Telegraph: “Well, I'm right here.”

His mysterious reaction even provoked Academy member Per Wastberg to call him “impolite” and “arrogant”.

Dylan later apologised for not being able to attend the ceremony and expressed surprise over being chosen as a laureate like authors Ernest Hemingway and Albert Camus.

“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,” he added.

Dylan's anti-establishment rock star image may seem at odds with the Nobel's prestige, at least in the eyes of hard-core fans, according to Mikael Timm, a culture reporter at the public Swedish Radio.

“Old nerds think this is the case because they want him to be anti-establishment,” Timm told AFP.

“It's been a while since he was politically active,” he added.

Armed with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, Dylan confronted social injustice, war and racism, and recording an astonishing 300 songs in his first three years.