Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday, becoming the first American in more than 20 years to claim the award.
The last American to win the Literature Nobel was Toni Morrison, in 1993.
The Swedish Academy praised Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” noting the five-decade recording career that has made him a fixture in the nation’s musical canon. He is also one of the first awardees to win primarily for singing and songwriting in the category, which typically favors novelists and poets.
The 75-year-old Dylan — best known for tunes like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone” — will receive a medal and a prize of about $925,000 with the honor.
The Nobel Prize in Literature is the only Nobel category in which Americans have not boasted the lion’s share of winners, according to FiveThirtyEight. The United States has claimed only 11 medals, compared to France’s 15 since the award was first established. (Two of those American winners — Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer — were born abroad. Another winner of the award, T.S. Eliot, was American-born but renounced his citizenship and claimed the prize for the United Kingdom.)
Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, praised Dylan after the announcement for the “54 years he’s been at it, reinventing himself, creating a new identity.” She flagged his 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde” for those listening to his work for the first time and compared Dylan’s lyrics to the poetry of Homer and Sappho.
“They wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to,” Danius said. “They were meant to be performed. It’s the same way with Bob Dylan... He is a great poet in the grand English tradition.”
Dylan had been discussed as a contender for the award in the weeks before Thursday’s announcement, and betting markets had given him an outside shot of winning the prize, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In the hours after the announcement, several people on Twitter poked fun at the snub of Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, a longtime favorite for the prize: