Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
The winner of the £740,000 prize, given for outstanding contributions in literature, was announced by permanent secretary Sara Danius at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, this afternoon (13th October).
Dylan triumphed over stiff competition from the bookies' favourite Kenyan novelist Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, who usurped Haruki Murakami (6/1) as favourite to win at Ladbrokes with odds at 7/2, American novelist Don DeLillo (8/1), Syrian poet, essayist and translator Ali Ahmad Said Esber (6/1), American writer, Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Roth (12/1) and Italian scholar Claudio Magris (12/1).
Danius said: "He is a great poet – a great poet in the English speaking tradition and he is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler. He embodies the tradition and for 54 years he’s been at it, reinventing himself constantly, reinventing himself creating a new identity."
She added that "Blonde on Blonde" represented "many classics" and was "an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, and putting together refrains and his pictorial way of thinking".
In response as to whether she expected criticism over the decision, Danius said "I hope not" and defended the choice by saying it followed in the same tradition as such writers as Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, as a writer of "texts that were meant to be listened to".
"It may look like we have [widened the horizon for the prize], but really we haven't," Danius said. "If you look back, far back, 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to. They were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, and it's the same way with Bob Dylan. But we still read Homer and Sappho and we enjoy it. Same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read and should be read and is a great poet in the grand English poetic tradition."
Simon & Schuster publishes Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One and confirmed to The Bookseller it had ordered another print run on the back of news of today's prize win.
Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, added: “We congratulate Bob Dylan on this extraordinary honour. For decades, he has fused poetry and music with ground-breaking artistry."
There has been speculation about why the Nobel Prize in Literature was not awarded at the same time as the other Nobel Prizes, with some pointing to it as a sign of disagreement on the committee as opposed to a mere calendar issue. According to the Swedish Academy, the nominations and the opinions written by the members of the Nobel Committee in Literature are kept secret for 50 years.
This year is the 109th Nobel Prize in Literature. Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich last year won the prize "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time", and was the 14th woman to have won the prestigious award.