Monday, March 8, 2010

Gershom Scholem on Bob Dylan

In 1978, a young graduate student traveling in India named Daniel Matt wrote to Gershom Scholem, the 80-year-old Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The letter discussed his experiences, his ambitious plans to translate the central text of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, and, most of all, about Bob Dylan, who he hoped Scholem might appreciate.

I’m also sending you Bob Dylan Approximately, whose author believes that Dylan draws
on Kabbalistic sources consciously or unconsciously (whatever that means). The thesis
does not hold water ... Be that as it may, the book is still interesting as a collage, and
will give you a hippie’s perspective on Robert Zimmerman (Dylan’s real name).

Scholem replied:

Your detailed account of your travels in the East and your experiences there with several
friends and gurus I read with great interest ... Who was or is Robert Zimmerman, called
Bob Dylan? ... Please let me know if he is a Jew. The Zimmermans divide 50% into Jews
and goyim ... My receptivity to music is, alas, nothing, therefore I forego the pleasure of
listening to “Blonde on Blonde” or even the more seducing “Desire.” The title “Highway 61”
arouses no desire in me. Maybe I am too old for it.

RTWT here

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