America on the threshold of changes: Shielding the living

15:11 Nov. 9, 2016

Shielding the living

Musical guest Bob Dylan performs on the Late Show with David Letterman, Tuesday May 19, 2015 on the CBS Television Network (Getty Images)

"Ghouls are coming out from a split in America's soil and heading straight to power," says famous Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych

Yuriy Andrukhovych for

Fortunately, the newly-minted Nobel laureate has finally come out of the darkness and broke his silence. A scandal will not happen, and it pleases me at least.

In 2001, he received his first and only Oscar for the song "Things Have Changed" for the film "Wonder Boys" (2000). They say, for a long time after that, he took the statue with him when going on tours, and placed it on a guitar amplifier during the concerts.

So when voices, worried about absence of his reaction to the award, started sounding from every corner, I also felt uneasy expecting some bad news. What if it is too late?

Dylan is not one of those self-affected individuals who would have refused another portion of recognition for his talent. Especially in the context of his Native American culture. Moreover, on the threshold of enormous changes within his country. To say that Dylan is involved in politics would greatly diminish his stature. He is not only a part of it – he is ‘its active and powerful element'!

But I mean politics in the broadest sense of the word, alternative politics - the one that is akin to rebellion, protest and sedition.

He grew up among the beatniks, "the Jewish son of a Jewish father" Allen Ginsberg, had a love affair with Joan Baez.

He sang "You're gonna have to serve somebody" which touched John Lennon to the quick - so he immediately replied with his own hit "Serve Yourself".

He created the epic "Blowin 'In The Wind" which was sung by Marlene Dietrich. And Elvis Presley, it seems to me, as well.

Or "Mr. Tambourine Man," absolutely adored by Hunter S. Thompson, who used it on one of his personal panegyric speeches.

Among the followers and fans of Dylan are the idol of today's IT youth Steven Jobs, immortal Rolling Stones band and the world-famous magazine with the same name. Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, Johnny Depp, Barack Obama, Václav Havel - and so on, and there is no end to the list.

Being not that much comprehensible for most of our non-English-speaking fellow citizens, Dylan is perceived not as a poet but rather as a rock star of a distant music culture. Some country music. But who is keen on country, and who gets kicks out of it?

But at the same time many of the late Soviet and the post-Soviet individuals wanted to be like Dylan. In other words, to imitate him, because he is so relatively unknown.

Remember of the late Mike Naumenko, who was comfortable with presenting Dylan's songs as his own.

Recall Grebenshchikov or Makarevich. Or, finally, - you will not believe – Russia's Stas Mikhailov.

Is it difficult to be a little bit more attractive than Dylan? To sing with a less indifferent and not so creaky voice, to put on a more sparkling jacket and expensive shoes? To build the same lyrical metaphors of "tumbleweed girls", " forget about today until tomorrow "saying that our feelings are the only real thing in this world, and listen to "the answer blowin in the wind."

Even in central Lviv this summer, among the songs by Chubai, and Moskalets and Ivasyuk, one could hear Dylan's "Knockin 'on Heaven's Door".

Just five years ago this platform was entirely monopolized by street music lovers of "Aria" with their "Angel" hanging over the city like a sword of Damocles.

And now we have an opportunity to hear good ol' English on the streets of Lviv from young musicians. Perhaps, we will eventually be able to hear more in good ol' Ukrainian?

They gave Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize, and he accepted it. This means that we are on the threshold of changes. Notably, in his time, Barack Obama, immediately after he became a president, awarded Dylan the Medal of Freedom. Now when Obama is outgoing, Dylan was given the Nobel. There is something fatal and Don Quixot-ish in it. It seems that Dylan was entrusted with a mission: to shield America from a split on its soil, out of which ghouls are coming like monsters out of the graves.

And they are not just climbing out, they are going straight to the house of power.

And the poet is entrusted with a task not to let them come to the world of the living.

And it's so touching - a poet with a guitar holding the fort. But will he be able to protect so many? He may also go soon. Besides, he is all alone, as all eternal poets are- albeit this time in the coolest cowboy hat ever.

This article is a translation of the opinion piece originally published in Ukrainian on
Yuriy Andrukhovych is a Ukrainian prose writer, poet, essayist, and translator.

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