The Swedish Academy handed Bob Dylan a remarkable, unexpected accolade on Thursday, announcing the singer as the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature. In a succinct statement, the Academy said Dylan deserved the honor "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." He is the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature since Toni Morrison in 1993. Previous renowned American laureates in the literature category include William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.
The news was announced by the academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius. According to NPR, Danius called Dylan "a great poet in the English-speaking tradition," and "a wonderful sampler – a very original sampler" during an interview following the announcement. "For 54 years now, he has been at it and reinventing himself, constantly creating a new identity," she added.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to 113 recipients. Alfred Nobel's original language about the prize took an open-minded view of what qualified as literature: according to the Nobel Prize's website, he specified that the award could be given to any "writings which, by virtue of their form and style, possess literary value."
The Swedish Academy did not reveal a shortlist of the candidates it was considering for the Nobel; according to The New York Times, there was speculation that it might go to Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya), Adonis (Syria), Haruki Murakami (Japan), Philip Roth (America), and Don DeLillo (America).
The Nobel comes with 8 million Swedish Kronor, or roughly $900,000. Dylan will receive his award on December 10th in Stockholm, Sweden.