Bob Dylan the Writer: An Authentic American Voice
“I’m the first person who’ll put it to you,” Bob Dylan said in a 1978 interview, “and the last person who’ll explain it to you.”
The Swedish Academy, which awarded Mr. Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, has put it to us, and it has no explaining to do to most readers and listeners, however much they might have been pulling for Philip Roth or Don DeLillo or Margaret Atwood.
星期四，瑞典文学院(Swedish Academy)把诺贝尔文学奖颁给了迪伦，他们把这个结果放在了我们面前，但是却没有为大多数读者与听众提供解释，不管这些读者们是多么看好菲利普·罗斯(Philip Roth)、唐·德里罗(Don DeLillo)或玛格丽特·阿特伍德(Margaret Atwood)。
This Nobel acknowledges what we’ve long sensed to be true: that Mr. Dylan is among the most authentic voices America has produced, a maker of images as audacious and resonant as anything in Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson.
这次把奖颁给他，等于是确认了我们一直以来的一个感觉是真的：迪伦已经跻身美国最为真诚的声音之列，他所创造的意向如同沃尔特·惠特曼(Walt Whitman)或艾米莉·迪金森(Emily Dickinson)的一样大胆、令人产生共鸣。
It has never hurt that Mr. Dylan’s words were delivered, as the English poet Philip Larkin once put it, in a “cawing, derisive voice” that seemed to carry the weight of myth and prophecy. Mr. Larkin was not Mr. Dylan’s greatest fan. He found the lyrics to “Desolation Row” to be “possibly half-baked.”
正如英国诗人菲利普·拉金(Philip Larkin)指出的，迪伦的歌词是用一种“鸦叫般的嘲弄之声”唱出，这嗓音从来无伤大雅，似乎承载了神话与预言的重量。不过拉金并不是迪伦最大的歌迷。他觉得《荒凉小径》(Desolation Row)的歌词“可能是半成品”。
It took a different Englishman, the venerated critic and scholar Christopher Ricks, to make the case most fully for Mr. Dylan as a complicated and complicating poet. In Mr. Ricks’s sly 2004 book “Dylan’s Visions of Sin,” he persuasively compared Mr. Dylan at various points with personages as distinct as Yeats, Hardy, Keats, Marvell, Tennyson and Marlon Brando.
彻底把迪伦作为一个复杂难解，且还在不断变得更加扑朔迷离的诗人来研究的，是另一位英国人——备受崇敬的评论家与学者克里斯托弗·瑞克斯(Christopher Ricks)。瑞克斯在2004年那本俏皮之作《迪伦的原罪想象》(Dylan’s Visions of Sin)一书中，从各个方面把迪伦同范围广泛的各路名人进行了令人信服的对比，包括叶芝(Yeats)、哈代(Hardy)、济慈(Keats)、麦尔维尔(Marvell)、丁尼生(Tennyson)与马龙·白兰度(Marlon Brando)。
“Dylan’s in an art in which sins are laid bare (and resisted), virtues are valued (and manifested), and the graces brought home,” Mr. Ricks wrote. He added, “Human dealings of every kind are his for the artistic seizing.”
Mr. Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minn., in 1941, was inspired when young by potent American vernacular music, songs by performers like Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and Robert Johnson. When his voice became fully his own, in his work of the mid-to-late 1960s that led up to what is probably his greatest song, “Like a Rolling Stone,” no one had ever heard pop songs with so many oracular, tumbling words in them.
迪伦原名罗伯特·艾伦·齐默曼(Robert Allen Zimmerman)，于1941年出生在明尼苏达州的德卢斯，年轻时，他深受强大的美国民间音乐的影响，包括伍迪·格瑟里(Woody Guthrie)、汉克·威廉姆斯(Hank Williams)与罗伯特·约翰逊(Robert Johnson)等人的歌曲。他渐渐形成了完全属于自己的声音，在其20世纪60年代中后期的作品《像一块滚石》(Like a Rolling Stone)中，众多如同神谕般云里雾里的字眼前所未有地出现在流行歌曲之中，而这首歌或许也是他最伟大的一首歌。
When Bruce Springsteen inducted Mr. Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, he described the opening seconds of that song this way: “That snare shot sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” The words that followed pulled that door from its hinge. In the chorus, they posed a question that has not stopped ringing over American life: “How does it feel/To be on your own/with no direction home.”
1988年，布鲁斯·斯普林斯汀(Bruce Springsteen)引荐迪伦进入摇滚名人堂(Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)时这样描述这首歌的开头几秒钟：“军鼓的声音就像有人一脚踢开通向你头脑的大门。”其后的歌词更是把这扇门整个拆了下来。副歌中提出的问题多年来一直回响在美国人的生活之中：“孤身一人的感觉怎么样/没有回家的方向。”
At the time, Dylan wrote in his masterful memoir “Chronicles: Volume One” (2004), “I just thought of mainstream culture as lame as hell and a big trick.” That memoir demonstrated that Mr. Dylan could write prose as fluently as lyrics. This needed proving only because Mr. Dylan’s sole novel, “Tarantula” (1966), written when he was 25, is a largely unreadable wordstew, written so as to defeat the hardiest of his idolators.
迪伦在他精彩的回忆录《编年史：第一卷》(Chronicles: Volume One，2004）中写道，那个时候，“我觉得主流文化蹩脚极了，就是一个大笑话。”这本回忆录表明，迪伦可以像写歌词一样流畅地书写散文。这一点之所以还需要证明，只是因为迪伦的唯一一本小说，他在25岁那年创作的《狼蛛》(Tarantula, 1966)是几乎难以读懂的文字大杂烩，只是用来打击他最铁杆的崇拜者。
As Elvis Costello said in his own recent memoir, “If you want a long career, you have to drive people away now and again, so they realize they miss you.”
Everyone has his or her own private anthology of favorite Dylan lyrics. Mine come from songs including “Idiot Wind” (“blowing every time you move your teeth”), “Brownsville Girl” (“Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content”), “Hurricane” (“How can the life of such a man/be in the palm of some fool’s hand?”), “Sweetheart Like You” (“It’s done with a flick of the wrist”) and “Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread,” written with the Band (“Pack up the meat, sweet, we’re headin’ out”).
所有人都有自己最心爱的“迪伦歌词选”。我喜欢的歌词来自《白痴风》（Idiot Wind，“每当启齿就呼啸而来”）；《布朗斯维尔女孩》（Brownsville Girl，“一起受苦的人比心满意足的人更加紧密团结，这件事可真是奇怪”）；《飓风》（Hurricane，“这样一个男人的生活，何以落入愚人之手？”）；《甜心如你》（Sweetheart Like You，“就在手腕轻颤之间”），还有《耶，沉沉的一大瓶子面包》(Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread)，是他与“乐队”(the Band)合写的（“带上点肉，宝贝，我们要出发了”）。
Then there’s this, from “Blind Willie McTell”:
然后还有《盲眼威利·麦克代尔》(Blind Willie McTell)里的歌词：
Well, God is in His heaven,
And we all want what’s his.
But power and greed and corruptible seed,
Seem to be all that there is.
Before this Nobel Prize, Mr. Dylan has been recognized by the world of literature and poetry. In 2008, the Pulitzer Prize jury awarded him a special citation “for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”
His songs have always packed social and political power to match the imagery. In his book “The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood,” Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke of what Mr. Dylan’s songs meant to his father as well as to a generation:
他的歌中总是包含与这个描述相衬的社会与政治力量。塔-奈西希·科特斯(Ta-Nehisi Coates)在《美丽的斗争：一位父亲，两个儿子与难以置信的成人之路》(The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood)一书中说起迪伦的歌曲对自己的父亲，乃至整整一代人的意义：
“Dylan’s voice was awful, an aged quaver that sounded nothing like the deep-throated or silky R&B that Dad took as gospel. But the lyrics wore him down, until he played Dylan in that addicted manner of college kids who cordon off portions to decipher the prophecies of their favorite band. Dad heard poetry, but more than that an angle that confirmed what a latent part of him had already suspected.” What was confirmed was this: The Vietnam War was a moral disgrace.
Songs are not poems, exactly. Songs prick our senses in different manner. Many of Mr. Dylan’s lyrics can no doubt, as Mr. Larkin put, look half-baked when set starkly alone on a white page.
But Mr. Dylan’s work — “with its iambics, its clackety-clack rhymes, and its scattergun images,” as the critic Robert Christgau wrote — has its own kind of emblematic verbal genius. His diction, focus and tone are those of a caustically gifted word man; his metrical dexterity is everywhere apparent. He is capable of rhetorical organization; more often he scatters his rhetoric like seed, or like curses.
This award is also a sign —after last year’s laureate, Svetlana Alexievich, whose work is made up of interviews — that the Swedish Academy is increasingly open to nontraditional forms of writing.
In what feels like a blow for common sense and scalding wordplay, the academy has attended to Mr. Dylan’s lyrics in “Lay Lady Lay,” to wit: “Why wait any longer for the one you love/When he’s standing in front of you?”
说句似乎有点打击常识，而且非常尖刻的俏皮话吧，瑞典文学院肯定是看了迪伦《躺下吧，女士》(Lay Lady Lay)的歌词，就是那句“当真爱就站在你的面前/为什么还要再去等待”。
In a 2004 interview in The New York Times, Mr. Ricks summed up my sense of the best of Mr. Dylan’s oeuvre: “I just think we’re terrifically lucky to be alive at a time when he is.”