VATICAN CITY (RNS) Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature drew praise from fans around the world, including President Obama. But at the Vatican’s daily newspaper, not so much.
An editorial published by the daily, L’Osservatore Romano, praised Dylan for his “very great talent” yet expressed doubt about whether the songwriter really deserved the same plaudits as great authors of contemporary literature.
The newspaper of the Holy See noted that the award had acknowledged Dylan’s lyrics in what amounted to a “lifetime achievement award” while seeming to question whether he really deserved it.
“It certainly must not have pleased real writers — such as Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, or Haruki Murakami who are all potential winners,” the editorial said. “They know the enormous work that involves writing a novel.”
Dylan, 75, was born into a Jewish family and converted to Christianity in the late 1970s, after which he released two albums inspired by his newfound faith. In his later years, his lyrics were less influenced by any formal religion.
“Bob Dylan composed songs, with beautiful lyrics, that were able to influence generations of songwriters, many of whom are really boring,” the Holy See paper wrote.
“Perhaps his greatest talent is found in his iron will to remain outside the logic of show business, while remaining a great star. ”
Avvenire, the Italian Catholic bishops’ daily, praised Dylan’s contribution and talent in an editorial published Friday (Oct. 14).
The editorial also recalled when Dylan sang “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” before St. John Paul II in 1997. They shook hands in what the Vatican described as a “sincere and unexpected gesture.”
Acclaimed Italian author Alessandro Baricco, writing for the Ansa News Service, also jabbed that while Dylan was “one of the greatest,” Baricco did not understand what songwriting had to do with the Nobel Prize in Literature.
(Josephine McKenna is RNS’ Vatican correspondent)