Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize: The Reaction from Writers in China
By David Haysom, published
Yes, China also noticed that Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It is akin to Cui Jian [崔健] receiving the prize, argues Zhang Yiwu [张颐武], a professor at Peking University. “This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature was a complete surprise, an unexpectedly novel approach – a Black Swan, even. Yes, Bob Dylan has been a global megastar of music since the 1960s, and he influenced the new social movements of the era. But it’s a bold move for a prize that has been a staid presence in the literary landscape for so many years. It’s certainly innovative. In the age of the internet, anything’s possible.”
Chen Xiaoming [陈晓明], another literary critic, has also remarked on the unexpectedness of the award. “Perhaps this is something to do with the personal tastes of the committee,” he suggests, “a moment of nostalgia. Or perhaps reading his biography reminded them of their own youths, like some kind of performance art. Or another possibility is that this is their way of encouraging people to pay less attention to the prize, to stop treating it with such reverance. You’re all expected us to give it to Adonis, well okay then, we’ll give it to Bob Dylan.”
—translated from 诺贝尔文学奖颁给音乐人 为什么是鲍勃·迪伦？
Here are a selection of responses from Chinese authors (collected from Weixin and Weibo by the Paper Republic team):
Chen Xiwo: It seems obvious that some of the old people on the prize committee are doing their bit to try and keep up with the times, so that they don't come across as completely senile and decrepit. Which includes being mischievous.
Di An: Murakami will be glad for Dylan.
Han Dong: It’s good to see a talented amateur receiving the award, it’s a release, it’s liberating. Too much angst has gotten attached to the award over the years – national, ethnic, political, personal…
Li Jingze: Yes, this is literature, and yes, this is poetry. What did you think literature was supposed to be? I edited some Chinese rock lyrics for a special magazine issue many years ago, and I knew at the time that I was in the presence of poetry.
Liao Weitang: In 2005 I saw a book about Alzheimer’s that had somehow gotten hold of old Bob Dylan’s face to put on the cover. I cried for Dylan.
廖伟棠: 2005年我在北京一家書店看到過這本關於老年癡呆症的書，封面竟然是不知從哪裡盜來的老Bob Dylan頭像。。。我當時就替Dylan哭了。
Miao Wei: Two of the three people who had the greatest influence on him were poets: Rimbaud and Verlaine. And he took the name “Dylan” from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
Qiu Lei: Congratulations to Adonis, Bob Dylan, Murakami, Fenghuang News, and 200,000 Weixin subscribers – joint winners of the 2016 Nobel for literature – see Hong Kong Free Press link below.
邱雷: 恭喜阿多尼斯、鲍勃迪伦、村上春树、凤凰新闻和 20 万个中国微信订阅号共同获得 2016 年诺贝尔文学奖
Wu Ang: Fucking baller!
Yu Yishuang (a week before the announcement): Bet on Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize every year, okay?
于一爽: nobel prize每年都赌bob dylan好吗
Yu Yishuang (after the announcement): I guessed right because of love.
Zhao Zhiming: Fucking awesome. So many people are going to be sitting on their toilets, crying.
Zhu Yue: Personally I think it should have gone to Murakami.
A few more links:
On The Australian: Bob Dylan’s Boho Army in China Celebrates Nobel Win looks back on Dylan’s 2011 performances in China.
On Notes From the Mosquito: Bob Dylan’s Poetry in Chinese Calligraphy – Lucas Klein shares a link to Michael Cherney’s calligraphical rendering of “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie”, translated into Chinese by 黃皓然 Huang Haoran and 黃冬 Huang Dong.
Lucas has also written a piece for The Initium that has been translated into Chinese as Bob Dylan的诺贝尔文学奖：高雅与通俗之间的美利坚.
On Hong Kong Free Press: People’s Daily calls for effort to ‘stem wild growth’ after Chinese media name wrong Nobel laureate – how premature online media reports that the Nobel went to Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Esber (AKA Adonis) have provided another pretext for clamping down on rampant rumour-mongering.
(Because there are only 65 sleeps left till Christmas in which to have nightmares of Bob in a wig.)