A man reads a newspaper in front of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-VATICAN-DYLAN, originally transmitted on Oct. 14, 2016.

Vatican daily paper sees missed opportunity in Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize

A man reads a newspaper in front of St. Peter Square at the Vatican on April 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-VATICAN-DYLAN, originally transmitted on October 13, 2016.

A man reads a newspaper in front of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-VATICAN-DYLAN, originally transmitted on Oct. 14, 2016.

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)

Comments

  1. Dylan’s a great artist, but you’ve essentially plagiarized John Lennon who declared, the Beatles “are more popular than Jesus.” But John didn’t mean it in the way you mean it. He had a great sense of history and the limitations of human popularity.

  2. Given the literary capacities of some who have received the Prize in past awards, there is nothing untoward in this selection. Dylan has thrived on marching to the beat of his own drum. He’s not going to be put in a box by anyone, and like most of us is continuing to work out his own creative output.

  3. What a vicious and unhappy soul you are. Your arguments are never factually sound and they are always predicated by personal attack.

  4. Lennon was a Marxist (whilst seeing no contradiction with raking in billions in royalties and emigrating to evade income tax. His only sense of history was the utterly false Marxist vision of history. He was an atheist who thought Marxism would bring Heaven on Earth (see his viciously anti-Christian song “Imagine”). He hated Jesus.

  5. While Lennon was no Christian, and was certainly inconsistent with respect to the tension between Marxism and Capitalism, he was a fine artist though spiritually deceived, however I do not view “Imagine” as viciously anti-Christian. It was an expression of idealistic hope without a proper spiritual frame of reference, a circumstance common to all who have not understood the eternal truths and applications of the bible.

  6. The Vatican as literary and music critic? Nah. Dylan is a highly skilled writer, with decades of work to show his creative skill.

    Of course there is controversy because Dylan is the first recipient whose poetry was presented via song lyrics. There will likely be others.

  7. So, who died and made the Vatican a hothouse of music critics? What a stretch! Ms. McKenna musta been under some extraordinary to produce a column of such blather to cover the rent!

  8. That does not take into account the millions of people born subsequent to Lennon’s remark in the late 1970’s who would not be familiar with the quote. When citing someone else’s words, intellectual honesty requires that one give attribution which credits the originator. It’s only common courtesy.

  9. Anti-Religion, yes…”viciously anti-Christian,” not so much.

  10. No errors on my part to walk back, happily. At least not in reference to any exchanges I’ve had with you.

  11. What a sad and pathetic creature you are, your self image must be terrible to behold. I truly pity you and wish there were some effective means of ameliorating your spiritual condition. I contend with many people from the secular and atheistic left and none of them rise to the level of your vituperation. You are apparently unable to even comprehend the concept of common courtesy. I weep for you.

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