Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Like Bob Dylan he accepted the prize, and also like Dylan he didn’t go to Stockholm to receive it. Dylan sent a letter this week to the Nobel Prize committee with regrets that prior commitments won’t allow him to attend the ceremony and accept the Nobel in person from King Gustav. Hemingway wrote a similar letter when he was named the winner.
Hemingway’s regrets contained one line that his fellow iconic American winner could never use. Hemingway said at the time: “I believe the microphone is one of the greatest enemies of literature, of letters, and that a man should try to imply or show in his written words what he believes.” Whatever you believe about Dylan, a musician, winning literature’s grandest prize, this much is sure: Bob Dylan would never have won the Nobel Prize without a microphone. Hemingway was just 55 years old when he won; Dylan is 75. Hemingway’s acceptance speech was read aloud at the ceremony by John C. Cabot, then the US Ambassador to Sweden. The current US Ambassador to Sweden is Azita Raji, an American born in Tehran. The first ambassador to Sweden was Benjamin Franklin, who probably deserved a Nobel Prize for Literature, too.