Dylan Nobel Lecture on Literature;June 4, 2017; Los Angeles, California
In his Nobel Lecture on Literature, Bob Dylan, who is 76, says that books that he read in school (grammar school) during his formative years influenced not only his song-writing but also his being:
But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.He goes on in the lecture to recount the effect of three books in particular: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey. Themes of redemption and of good and evil are evident in Dylan’s lyrics; it is also evident that Dylan has devoured the Bible and put it to good use in his music, speaking about the moral adventures of modern man, the same adventures that the novels above delve into with great detail.
Dylan is masterful in that he is able to distill to its essence what these writers took pages and pages to depict, to define, to describe. This is why Dylan is the man that he is and has gained the recognition that he has. He has earned it, including this prize. This takes having “principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world.”