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Dylan breaks the mould again as the first singer to be named winner of Nobel literature prize

By Jess Denham

Bob Dylan is the surprise winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature for having "created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, turned 75 years old earlier this year.

His music career has spanned more than five decades and his influence still pervades genres from rock and pop to folk and soul.

His lyrical ability has seen him tackle timeless themes from politics to love and he remains a hugely respected cultural presence.

The singer- songwriter is the first American to win since Beloved author Toni Morrison picked up the prize in 1993.

While yesterday's announcement came as a surprise, Dylan has been a popular choice for consideration over the years, despite his work not fitting into the traditional categories of novels and poems usually favoured by the judges.

The sixth and final Nobel medal of the year is presented by the Swedish Academy to a winner who has produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction".

The recipients win 8m Swedish kronor (£744,000).

Prior to the result, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o had been the favourite to win, along with contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami and Syrian poet, essayist and translator Adonis.

Nobel prizes have already been awarded in physics, chemistry, economics and medicine, with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos winning the prestigious peace prize.

Recent literature winners include Alice Munro, Doris Lessing and JM Coetzee, with the first prize awarded to French poet Sully Prudhomme.

Dylan has yet to comment on his award.

Permanent secretary at the Swedish Academy Sara Danius said he was deserving of the prize, adding: "He is 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 now he's been at it and re-inventing himself constantly, creating a new identity."

Speaking after making the announcement, in a video posted to the official Twitter page of the Nobel Prize, Ms Danius said she hoped there would not be criticism over the decision.

She suggested that anyone wanting to "start listening or start reading" Dylan should use the famous lyricist's 1966 Blonde on Blonde album as a starting point.

She added that particular body of work was a good example of his "brilliant way of rhyming and putting together refrains and his pictorial thinking".

Dylan is the first musician to win the award, and it follows his Pulitzer Prize win in 2008 for his contributions to music and American culture.

The last album recorded by the singer, released in May this year and titled Fallen Angels, was widely praised by critics, with Rolling Stone magazine saying: "His phrasing remains spectacular, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and the playing is sublime."

Literary lines from Bob’s back pages

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial/Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while/But Mona Lisa must’ve had the highway blues/You can tell by the way she smiles


Come writers and critics/Who prophesise with your pen/And keep your eyes wide/The chance won’t come again


You used to laugh about/Everybody that was hanging out/Now you don’t talk so loud/Now you don’t seem so proud/About having to be scrounging your next meal


Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties/Are free to drink Martinis and watch the sun rise/While Rubin sits like Buddha in a 10-foot cell/An innocent man in a living hell


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