To Understand Dylan's Nobel Silence, Read Sartre

It's about 'bad faith,' explains an op-ed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2016 11:58 AM CDT
To Understand Dylan's Nobel Silence, Read Sartre
Bob Dylan in 1965.   (AP Photo/File)

One member of the Nobel academy thinks it's "arrogant" that Bob Dylan won't acknowledge his literature prize. Poet and critic Adam Kirsch thinks it's "wonderful," and he explains why in a New York Times op-ed. He notes that philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre refused his own Nobel in 1964, saying that a writer must "refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution." Earlier that same year, Dylan told his lover in the song "It Ain't Me Babe" that she should go because “I’m not the one you want, babe/I’m not the one you need.” Kirsch sees a parallel in the two sentiments: "If you love me for what I am, don’t make me be what I am not."

Sartre wrote of a concept called "bad faith," which amounts to the "opposite of authenticity"—the act of playing a role for other people, writes Kirsch. Dylan has long refused to do this. Kirsch sees the Nobel Prize as "the ultimate example of bad faith" in that the panel is acting like God in anointing Dylan "Literature incarnate," and he thinks "all this pretending is the opposite of the true spirit of literature, which lives only in personal encounters between reader and writer." We don't know what the mercurial Dylan is up to, and he may yet accept his prize. "But so far, his refusal to accept the authority of the Swedish Academy has been a wonderful demonstration of what real artistic and philosophical freedom looks like." Click for Kirsch's full column. (Read more Bob Dylan stories.)

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