Dylan win a surprise for many in China

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The news that Bob Dylan won this year's Nobel Prize in literature came as a surprise to many Chinese, who overwhelmingly showed sympathy for Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.

The latter arguably has a much larger fan base in China and has perennially been rumored to be the next Nobel laureate for literature.

"Nobody would expect a singer to win a Nobel," said Chen Xiaoming, a Peking University professor specializing in literary criticism. He called the win "a performance piece by the jury", a euphemism for a joke. But he also said Dylan indeed represented cultural radicalism and an avant-garde spirit in the 1950s and 1960s.

Now, Chen said, Dylan just elicits a sense of nostalgia.

Wang Xiaofeng, a music critic who has written extensively about Dylan, said: "The elderly Nobel jurors were once of the young generation and grew up with Dylan. They could well be under his influence."

"Giving Dylan the Nobel is like Dylan plugging his guitar into electric power in the old days," Wang said of the icon, who took fans of his acoustic music by surprise when he began using electric instruments in 1965.

Dylan has been nominated repeatedly for the Nobel Prize in literature since 1997.

"Many of us are surprised because we intuitively equate everything that's sung with the lame pop lyrics we take for granted," said Hao Fang, another music critic.

"Dylan's lyrics would not pale next to the best poems of his contemporaries. The texts alone would suffice, but they would achieve a special drama when combined with music and sung out rather than read," he said.

Hao added that Dylan would not likely make a fuss about the prestigious award.

"He knows clearly what his stature is in the pantheon of culture."

Hao said the singer, who performed in Beijing and Shanghai in 2011, his only shows on the Chinese mainland, has never been popular in China, compared with Michael Jackson, Madonna or the Beatles.

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