Yes, we all know that Bob Dylan is weird and secretive, and we also know of people like Jean-Paul Sartre who declined a Nobel literature award. (One other person refused it—not a Literature prize—and several scientists were forced to refuse it by their totalitarian government. Can you name them?) We also know that Bob Dylan is laconic.
It’s okay for him to be weird, though, as his music was often superb (some, though, claim he doesn’t deserve a Nobel Prize for literature). And I remember what a jerk Dylan was, at least in his younger days; you can see that clearly in the 1967 movie Don’t Look Back.
But I hoped he’d grown up at least a little. Apparently not, though—at least according to many reports on his behavior after he nabbed the literature Nobel. He hasn’t acknowledged it, hasn’t mentioned it, and hasn’t even talked to the Swedish Academy, who had to give him the news through one of his friends.
A prominent member of the academy that awards the Nobel literature prize has described this year’s laureate, Bob Dylan, as arrogant, citing his total silence since the award was announced last week.
The US singer-songwriter has not responded to repeated phone calls from the Swedish Academy, nor reacted in any way in public to the news.
It’s impolite and arrogant,” said the academy member, Swedish writer Per Wastberg, in comments aired on SVT public television.
On the evening of 13 October, the day the literature prize winner was announced, Dylan played a concert in Las Vegas during which he made no comment at all to his fans.
He ended the concert with a version of the Frank Sinatra hit “Why Try To Change Me Now?”, taken to be a nod towards his longstanding aversion to the media.
Every 10 December Nobel prize winners are invited to Stockholm to receive their awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf and give a speech during a banquet.
The academy still does not know if Dylan plans to come.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” Wastberg said.
Dylan’s behavior is reprehensible. Though it may be a form of rebellion, a denigration of awards in general, an attempt to maintain his reclusive image, or all of the above, there’s nothing admirable in it. Let him refuse the Prize if he wishes, but the least he owes the Swedish Academy is either an acknowledgment or a polite refusal.
I’m on the fence about whether Dylan deserves the award (in my view, he hasn’t written anything great since a few cuts on “Blood on the Tracks”), but anybody who thinks he’s cool for not acknowledging the prize is clueless.