Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan said on Monday that unlike literature his songs were meant to be sung not read and that they only needed to move people, not to make sense.
The Swedish Academy’s decision to award last year’s prize for literature to Dylan, who had “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, was seen by some as slap in the face by some mainstream writers of poetry and prose.
In his Nobel lecture, the notoriously media-shy Dylan said: “Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read.”
“If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means,” he said in the speech posted on the Academy’s website.
Dylan, the first singer-songwriter to win the prize, was silent about the award for weeks after it was announced and he did not attend the prize ceremony and banquet.
Nobel laureates need to give a lecture within six months from the Dec. 10 award ceremony in order to receive an 8-million-crown ($900,000) prize sum. It does not necessarily need to be delivered in Stockholm.
In his lecture, Dylan tells how Buddy Holly and a Leadbelly record transported him as a teenager into an unknown world, and he discusses three of his favorite books: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.
“The speech is extraordinary and, as one might expect, eloquent. Now that the lecture has been delivered, the Dylan adventure is coming to a close,” Swedish Academy secretary Sara Danius said in a statement.