(Authors Photos from LP Collection)
Days after the Swedish Academy committee awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature, they’ve been unable to contact him. This isn’t unprecedented. Dylan has been historically reluctant to attend awards ceremonies. Last Thursday, Dylan gave a concert in Las Vegas and even performed in Coachella on Friday without making mention of the honor. In fact, it was The Rolling Stones who later congratulated Dylan during their set at the Indio Festival.
Many point endlessly to the past, noting that Jean-Paul Sartre is the only known winner of the prize to decline voluntarily. Elfriede Jelinek stayed away in 2004. Harold Pinter and Alice Munro missed the ceremony in 2005 and 2013, and Boris Pasternak declined under pressure from Soviet authorities’ way back in 1958.
That the late CBS “60 Minutes” reporter Ed Bradley managed to snag a sit down interview with Bob Dylan in 2004 – 20 years after Dylan’s last interview — is a small miracle. He appeared self-effacing about the level of fame and genuine respect he’s received from fans over the decades. But the interview was illuminating.
Sara Danius recently suggested that skeptics listen to Blonde On Blonde
Meanwhile in Stockholm, not even Nobel judges know how Dylan feels about having received the award. The Swedish Academy says it hasn’t been able to reach Dylan directly since the award was announced last Thursday.
“We haven’t established direct contact with Bob Dylan yet, but I have spoken to one of his closest associates,” the academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius told The Associated Press.
“It would be delightful if Dylan wanted to come to Stockholm in December, but if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to,” Danius added.
Dylan, who is currently on tour (as he has been relentlessly since 1988) in the U.S. hasn’t even posted an acknowledgement on his website.
In 2012, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he did attend the White House ceremony. The following year, Dylan became the first rock star voted into the elite American Academy of Arts and Letters as an honorary member. He responded over four months later, through his manager.
“I feel extremely honored and very lucky to be included in this pantheon of great individual artists who comprise the (American) Academy of Arts and Letters. I look forward to meeting all of you some time soon,” said Dylan in his message. And no, he did not attend the ceremony.
If he travels to Stockholm for the December 10 Nobel ceremony, it won’t be the first time he receives an award from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf. Back in 2000, Dylan collected the Polar Music Prize from him.
Dylan is an eccentric artist who has appeared in Victoria’s Secret commercials while avoiding state dinners. Nor does he allow news photographers to shoot his concerts. The Ed Bradley interview was as rare as it gets.
Clearly, Dylan is a man who marches to his own drum. Even U.S. President Barack Obama tweeted his congratulations to Dylan, citing that he is “one of my favorite poets”.
Recalling Dylan’s appearance at The White House in 2013 to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Obama noted the following to Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Jann Wenner.
“Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you’d expect he would be,” Obama said. “He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I’m sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise.”
At the end of the day, even if Dylan declines to accept the prize money ($900,000) it is not possible to refuse the title. This is because Nobel prizes cannot be returned or rescinded, according to Academy statutes.
To this point, Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, is emphatic that Dylan has won the Nobel Award for Literature in 2016, whether he acknowledges it or not. The rest is purely amusing, and the honor is well deserved.