Why Bob Dylan waited to accept his Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan's delay in accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature is not surprising. When he was voted into the elite American Academy of Arts and Letters, it took him four months to accept.

AP Photo
Folk singer Bob Dylan, seen here performing in March 1963, is the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bob Dylan has accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature, the Swedish Academy said, adding that getting the prestigious award left him "speechless."

The academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius, said the singer-songwriter contacted them himself and said "of course" he would accept the prize. Danius told Sweden's TT news agency that Mr. Dylan called her Tuesday evening and they spoke for about 15 minutes.

"The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless," Dylan told Danius, according to a statement posted Friday on the academy's website. "I appreciate the honor so much."

Dylan is the first songwriter to win the Literature prize, which has traditionally gone to authors of poems, short stories, or novels, as The Christian Science Monitor's Amanda Hoover wrote when the prize was announced:

“If you look far back, 5000 years, you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan,” Sara Danius, the academy’s permanent secretary, said.

“We still read Homer and Sappho, and we enjoy it. “Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear,” she added. “But it’s perfectly fine to read his works as poetry.”

It has not yet been decided whether Dylan will attend any Nobel events in Stockholm in December, Danius said.

In an interview with British newspaper The Telegraph posted Friday, Dylan was quoted as saying he "absolutely" wants to attend the Dec. 10 prize ceremony, "if it's at all possible."

Danius said the academy will do "all it can" to have a schedule suiting Dylan if he wants to come to Stockholm, according to TT.

The 75-year-old singer-songwriter was awarded the prize on Oct. 13 "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

Dylan at first was silent after the announcement, and a member of the Swedish Academy called the silence "impolite and arrogant."

Dylan has accepted numerous awards over the years, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for which he attended a White House ceremony in 2012. But he also has a history of taking his time acknowledging them.

In 2013, he became the first rock star voted into the elite American Academy of Arts and Letters, which made him an honorary member. According to executive director Virginia Dajani, the academy informed Dylan of the decision – through his manager, Jeff Rosen – in January of that year. Only in May 2013 did Dylan respond, again through his manager.

If Dylan travels to Stockholm for the Nobel ceremony, it won't be the first time he receives an award from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf. In 2000, Dylan collected the Polar Music Prize from him.

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