Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech was a roadmap of his career, honoring those who he now joins in the annals of literary history.
Despite his absence at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm Saturday — where Patti Smith honored Dylan with an emotional rendition of his “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” — Dylan’s presence was felt through his personally penned speech. During the Nobel Banquet held after the ceremony, the United States Ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji, read the singer-songwriter’s words addressing his gratitude for the honor.
“I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize,” wrote Dylan in his opening statement. The artist continues by citing his literary influences throughout life, including “Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression.”
Dylan also dressed the controversy around his being chosen for the literary prize. Referencing Shakespeare, he says, “the thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read.” In the end, he ultimately lends the decision by the Swedish Academy to award him for literature as the answer to the skeptics’ questions about his validity as a writer.
The Nobel organization allows six months for awards recipients to deliver an acceptance speech, and prior speculation saw Dylan delivering the speech during his 2017 European tour. However, the performer ultimately composed his words to be read at the banquet.
Read the entire speech below.