Bob Dylan never comes right out and says what he means. That's just the kind of guy he is. His whole career, willful obscurity his been his thing.
Read Bob's letter to the Nobel prize committee, keeping in mind his propensity to weave riddles. And tell me what you think Bob is REALLY saying. And afterward I'll tell you what I think Bob is saying.
A lot of humility and graciousness there.
And also a hint of sheepishness?
To me there's MORE than a hint of sheepishness lurking around in Dylan's words.
There's almost a sense of...could I call it embarrassment?
Dylan listing the great writers he now shares the top of the mountain with COULD be taken as a sign of immodesty, but I think that's backward. What Dylan is really saying to me is this: "I'm not worthy to be placed among the greats. No really. I'm not WORTHY. And frankly I'm a little embarrassed that you Nobel guys hung this on me. The people who are criticizing you for choosing me? They might have a point dude. I'M NO CAMUS." The key line is this one: "Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, 'Are my songs literature?' So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer." Translation: "I appreciate the honor but let's be honest man...my stuff really ain't literature. And you guys should probably KNOW that."
I bet Dylan really really wishes someone else had been given the prize. THAT'S why he didn't respond immediately when they tried to contact him. THAT'S why he didn't show up to collect the prize.
Dylan doesn't think he's literature. He doesn't think he deserves this prize. And frankly he's a little annoyed that those fucking Swedes hung this shit around his neck. He just wants to write his songs and play his tunes and keep on trucking until Jesus finally calls him. He doesn't need no prizes man.