Yes, I’ve read Sartre. In French. I have every single book of Haruki Murakami, in handy English translation. I chewed through the right-in-your-face prose of Herta Muller, in German (and hated it). I loved the extreme contagious wit of John Steinbeck, the masterful wizardries of Samuel Beckett. Pablo Neruda made me weep, even in translation.
Gao Xingjian bitterness burned my unprotected soul, Theodor Mommsen took my breath away with his gargantuan work, A History of Rome. I marvelled with the powerful rhetoric of Winston Churchill, and the old man and the sea from Ernest Hemingway changed the very pores of my existence. And, thank you Gabriel García Márquez for everything.
O, and thank you for Bob Dylan. I waited a bit till most pseudo intellectuals licked their pride and went back to praising whoever is on the 10-books-you-have-to-read list. I waited a bit till oil smoothed the waves. But, darn I’m glad the American Bard set everyone a well-deserved nose.
I hate the smooth arrogance of intellectual totalitarism. I hate that sweet-sour matter of fact tone that assures that Murakami is the best writer on the planet, that Jezus walked on water, that Wagner is the greatest composer ever. O no, that would be Beethoven… but Mozart surely…? That you should read Fyodor Dostoyevsky and die.
A lot of those voices condemned Bob Dylan for receiving the Nobel Prize of Literature. Because he is pop, or rock. Long-haired. A bard. Someone composing cheap music for the masses. Not Yasunari Kawabata by a mile.
It’s the Nobel Prize for literature. Not the prize for woolly books, or classic poetry. Literature in its broadest form. Nobel even specified in his will that the prize should be awarded to those language virtuosi whose writings “shall have conferred the greatest benefit on all of mankind“.
It is relatively easy to write for the intellectual elite, to revel in the high architecture of complicated language. But how many people will be touched by that? How many people can digest Xingjian without a headache and therapy?
A lot of my intellectual friends thought it a disgrace Churchill got the price in 1953. Churchill’s rhetoric words helped stop a global war. His words were powerful enough for countless young lads to lay down their lives on the beaches of Normandy. But he was not Francois Mauriac. *Deep sigh*.
Dylan touched three generations with his lyrics. You can be against him receiving the Nobel Price. I try not be totalitarian in my views. But do me a favor. Before you shoot him in the back, from the ivory tower of your absolute wisdom, at least do yourself the honour of reading him. He might be a lot more than you envisioned.
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