Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, has always had a knack to do the unexpected. When he burst to the scene in the early 1960s he caused ripples in both the worlds of music and poetry. Then, he went ‘electric’ to the disappointment of his fans who expected him to remain a protest singer forever. In 1988, he embarked on a Never Ending Tour, playing 2,819 shows as of November 23, 2016.
His latest project – an album of Frank Sinatra covers. And now, in another unexpected turn of events, after months of silence, Dylan has decided to after all accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm this weekend, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced.
The American singer was awarded the Prize last October but failed to travel to pick up the award or deliver the lecture that is required in order to receive to receive the 8 million Swedish Krona prize, which roughly amounts to $900,000. The rules say that if the recipient does not deliver a lecture by June 2017, he will have to forfeit the prize money.
After the winner had been announced last year, the singer-songwriter met the news with complete silence – an unprecedented occurrence. This resulted in wild speculation whether the 75-year-old poet accepts the award at all, which lasted for two weeks. Dylan ultimately thanked the Academy for the award saying the honor had left him “speechless” before he snubbed the Nobel ceremony in December because of “pre-existing commitments”.
After this latest development, the Academy said it would meet Dylan, 75, in private in the Swedish capital Stockholm, where he is giving two concerts on the 1st and 2nd of April. It has been announced the Duluth-born musician will not lecture in person but is expected to send a taped version – another unusual, though not unprecedented, concession granted to the first songwriter to ever win the award.
A blog entry from Professor Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said: “The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend. The Academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature. 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.”
Danius said taped lectures had been sent by other winners in the past, including writer Alice Munro in 2013.
Bob Dylan is the first American to win the coveted decoration since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993. He received the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, the award citation said.
In a speech read out on his behalf during the December 2016 ceremony, he said he had thought his odds of winning were as likely as him “standing on the moon” and that it was “truly beyond words” to receive the prize.