The Literature Nobel, 2016

The Literature Nobel, 2016

“Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in the human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart.”

                                                                                                       -Salman Rushdie

Literature consigns you to entities unfortified, arrays unexplored and realms unearthed. What literature does to the mind, the heart and the soul remains unfathomable to one who’s never been left smitten by the beauty of it. Literature renders a new dimension to your perspective, it loosens the shackles you’ve encased your heart with and more often than not, leaves you delusional, mystified, confounded and dazed.

Its magnificence lies in the fact that you realise somewhere, someone also caresses the same desires, the same aspirations, the same pain and the same fears, that you ally with. You agonise that your longings are universal, that you’re not lonely or isolated. And as Fitzgerald puts it, “You belong.” Bob DylanAnd that’s the charm of literature, it leaves you enamoured by its profundity, by its reach, the way words implant their roots in your soul and reach out to the depths of your heart. How they string together to play a serenade of sorts, unmasking the peace within you, baring all the scars you’ve buried and giving you immense comfort.

“Literature”? Have you ever thought how vast can this monosyllable be connoted? What it could banally refer to is works of creative imagination, including poetry, drama, fiction, non-fiction, journalism and in some instances, even songs.

US President Barack Obama with Bob

US President Barack Obama with Bob

Moreover, literature is an adroitness, an art, the art of creating magic with words. Literature portrays the culture and tradition of a language, or of a people.

Even before ink, paper, writing or reading existed, literature has endured, having descended from diverse oral traditions including folktales, odes, fables and dramas. Consequently, the definition of literature has never been stagnant and static. It is dynamic, it is vivacious, constantly changing and evolving, from generation to generation, from region to region and from individual to individual.

Works of literature provide a blueprint of human civilization. From the writings of ancient civilizations like Egypt, and china, to Greek philosophy and poetry; from the epics of Homer to the plays of Shakespeare, from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to Haruki Murakami, works of literature give a peek into world’s cultures.

The Nobel in Literature, is indubitably one of the most prestigious awards in the field of literature, and since 1901, it has been conferred annually to an author from any country who has given the literary world major contributions and endowments, who has let his individualistic style give a refreshing outlook to literature and who has, in the words of Alfred Nobel, produced “in the field of literature, the most outstanding work.”

Over the years, there have been 109 prizes being awarded, out of which 14 were conferred on women.

For the first time in the history of the Nobel, a musician receives the Nobel prize in Literature. The next American to win after Toni Morrison in 1993, Bob Dylan is the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The American songwriter, singer, artist and writer has been influential in amplifying and personalizing music genres of pop music and folk music. His songs often incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical and literary influences. He has, for decades been writing with frustration and rage about things that shouldn’t be invisible, opening our eyes to what we were previously unable to notice, unable to comprehend. Dylan has provided the world with gorgeous, thought-provoking, overwhelming, delusional and resonant poetry.

“Then take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow

 Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”

Mr Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan

Most of his songs, during the early phase of his career like “Spirit on the water” and “Ain’tTalkin” and “Pay in Blood” and “Blood on the Tracks” and “Blonde on Blonde”, and ah, obviously “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Mr Tambourine Man” are wonders. Poignant.  Funny. Traditional. And yet refreshing and evergreen. His way of expressing is unique, individualistic and entertaining, all at the same time. He knows how to warm up words to strike the right chords. He, indeed, creates magic.bob-dylan

But when the news of him receiving the Nobel came out, everyone out there had an opinion about it. And as Dylan himself mentions in his award receiving speech, that when Shakespeare’s wrote his works, thinking about whether they counted as literature or not would have been the last question occupying his mind. And similarly, when Dylan wrote his songs, it was their creative endeavours, he was engrossed with.

People thought that it was worthless giving a musician, a literary award. And that, there would be no boundaries to classify literature. But that is the world we’re living in, with dissolving boundaries and interlocking arenas. A world where written literature is not the complete set of literature. A world where the definition of literature is dynamic.

Salman Rushdie tweeted, after the announcement:

“From Orpheus to Faiz, song &poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice. #Nobel”

Indeed, it is a world of merging and colliding boundaries and edges.

This decision unequivocally reveals the Nobel committee’s ability to widen what we traditionally thought of literature as.

And Bob Dylan, definitely, is a “pivot”, for widening the horizon and the sphere of what literature may count as, in the years to come.

-Farheen Neyaz
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