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Bob Dylan awarded Nobel literature prize

Bob Dylan performing onstage at Les Vieilles Charrues Festival in Carhaix, western France, in July 2012. Picture by David Vincent/AP

BOB Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first time the prestigious award has been given to a musician.

The Swedish Academy cited the US singer-songwriter for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Those gathered for the announcement at the academy's headquarters in Stockholm's Old Town reacted with a loud cheer as his name was read out.

Dylan had been mentioned in Nobel speculation for years but few experts expected the academy to extend the prestigious award to a genre such as popular music.

The academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius, said that although Dylan performs his poetry in the form of songs it is no different from the ancient Greeks, whose works were often performed to music.

"Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear," she said.

"But it's perfectly fine to read his works as poetry."

British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, often mentioned as a possible Nobel literature prize contender, commended the choice to honour Dylan.

"From Orpheus to Faiz, song and poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice," Rushdie said.

But Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh reacted angrily to the award, embarking on a series of exchanges on Twitter.

"I'm a Dylan fan but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies," the Trainspotting author wrote.

"If you're a 'music' fan, look it up in the dictionary. Then 'literature'. Then compare and contrast."

Welsh also begged to know whether writer Don De Lillo had been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll hall of fame yet.

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet was one of the first to congratulate Dylan.

"What a joy that Bob Dylan got the Nobel for literature. Many fond memories from my adolescence are associated with his music," she said.

Dylan was born on May 24 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota and grew up in a Jewish middle-class family.

He is the first American winner of the Nobel literature prize since Toni Morrison in 1992.

By his early twenties, he had taken the folk music world by storm. Blowin' In The Wind and The Times They Are A-Changin became anthems for the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

Dylan was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his contributions to music and American culture.

The literature award was the last of this year's Nobel Prizes to be announced.

The six awards will be handed out on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.

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