It may have taken Bob Dylan a stunningly long two weeks to acknowledge receiving this year's Nobel Prize for literature, but at the award banquet on Saturday the famously aloof musician offered something of an explanation.
Dylan didn't attend the event in person — the musician Patti Smith appeared in Stockholm, Sweden, on his behalf — but in a speech written by Dylan and read by the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji, he said that he'd been on the road when the news arrived.
"It took me more than a few minutes to properly process it," Dylan said in the speech.
In Dylan's place, Smith performed one of his most moving songs — "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" — to 1,500 people during the award ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall.
The scale of this task was evident: Just two minutes in to an otherwise emotionally powerful rendition, Smith paused, stumbled, then apologized.
"I'm sorry," she said to applause. "I’m just so nervous."
Smith's performance was preceded by a rapturous introduction from Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl, who compared Dylan to the greatest poets in history.
"With the public expecting poppy folk songs, there stood a young man with a guitar fusing the language of the street and the bible into a compound that would have made the end of the world seem a superfluous replay," Engdahl said. "At the same he sang of love with the power of conviction that everyone wants to own."
Engdahl added: "He gave back to the language of poetry its elevated style lost since the romantics — not to sing of eternities but to speak of what was happening around us, as if the Oracle of Delphi was reading the evening news."
The Academy previously said Dylan couldn't attend due to "other commitments."
Though Dylan didn't attend, he seemed humbled by the honor.
"I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize," Dylan said in the speech read by the ambassador.
"If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon," he said.
Other recipients at Saturday’s ceremony included Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end that country’s 50-year civil war, and a trio of scientists for their discoveries in physics.