American singer Bob Dylan has been hailed as “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” following his surprise Nobel Prize in Literature win.
The 75-year-old was given the prestigious accolade for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
The last American to have won the literature prize was Beloved author Toni Morrison in 1993.
Permanent secretary at the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said he was deserving of the prize, adding: “He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition, and he is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler, he embodies the tradition.
“And for 54 years now he’s been at it and reinventing himself constantly, creating a new identity.”
Speaking after making the announcement, in a video posted to the official Twitter page of the Nobel Prize, Danius said she hoped there would not be criticism over the decision.
She suggested that anyone wanting to “start listening or start reading” Dylan should use the famous lyricist’s 1966 Blonde On Blonde album as a starting point.
She said that particular body of work was a good example of his “brilliant way of rhyming and putting together refrains and his pictorial thinking”.
Born Robert Zimmerman on May 24 1941, in the backwaters of Minnesota, he reinvented himself as Bob Dylan.
He is considered one of the greatest lyricists of modern times, having penned memorable hits such as Blowin’ In The Wind and The Times They Are A-Changin’.
Asked about broadening the horizons of the prize, given that Dylan has not written novels in the “usual sense”, Danius said Dylan’s works were comparable to those of the ancient Greek lyric poet Sappho and Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey.
“It may look that way but really we haven’t (broadened the horizons), if you look back 2,500 years ago you discover Homer and Sappho, they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to, they were meant to be performed with instruments and it’s the same with Bob Dylan,” she explained.
“He can be read and should be read and is a great poet in the grand English-speaking tradition.”