American music legend Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Literature Prize, the first songwriter to win the prestigious award. Dylan, 75, was honoured “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, the Swedish Academy said, in an announcement that stunned prize watchers.

The folk singer has been mentioned in Nobel speculation in past years, but was never seen as a serious contender. The choice was met by gasps and a long round of applause from journalists attending the prize announcement.

The Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius said Dylan’s songs were “poetry for the ears”. Dylan will take the eight million kronor (RM3.8mil) prize sum. Last year, the prize went to Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich, for her documentary-style narratives based on witness testimonies.

The Nobel award is the latest accolade for a singer who has come a long way from his humble beginnings as Robert Allen Zimmerman, born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, who taught himself to play the harmonica, guitar and piano.

The literature award caps the 2016 Nobel season, following more than a week of announcements for the prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, economics and peace, with the latter going to Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end a half-century war with the FARC rebels.

The 2016 laureates will receive their awards – a gold medal and a diploma – at a formal ceremony in Stockholm as tradition dictates on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize creator Alfred Nobel. A separate ceremony is held in Oslo for the peace prize laureate on the same day, as the Norwegian Nobel Committee grants that award. – AFP