Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016

He is the first American winner in 23 years

Jess Denham
Thursday 13 October 2016 11:35 BST
Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize for Literature

US folk singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for having “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, turned 75 earlier this year. His career has spanned more than five decades and his influence still pervades genres from rock and pop to folk and soul. His stunning lyrical ability has seen him tackle timeless themes from politics to love and he remains a hugely respected cultural presence.

Dylan is the first American to win since Beloved author Toni Morrison picked up the prize in 1993. While the announcement was a surprise, Dylan has been a popular choice for consideration over the years, despite his work not fitting into the traditional categories of novels and poems usually favoured by the judges.

The literature winner is often unexpected, with the recipients themselves regularly taken aback by their own triumph. Last year’s winner, Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, found out when reporters knocked on her door and told her she had won “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. Dylan is yet to comment on his win.

The sixth and final Nobel medal of the year is presented by the Swedish Academy to a winner who has produced “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. The recipients win 8m Swedish kronor (£744,000). Prior to the result, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o had been the favourite to win, along with contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami and Syrian poet, essayist and translator Adonis.

Nobel Prizes have already been awarded in physics, chemistry, economics and medicine with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos winning the prestigious peace prize. Recent literature winners include Alice Munro, Doris Lessing, JM Coetzee and Toni Morrison with the first prize awarded to French poet Sully Prudhomme.

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