STOCKHOLM-Bob Dylan said it was “truly beyond words” to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In a speech read on his behalf at the ceremony in Sweden, he said he thought his odds of winning were as likely as him “standing on the moon”.

The songwriter told those at the event in Sweden he was there “in spirit” and thanked the Academy for seeing his songs as works of literature.

Patti Smith performed his song A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall at the ceremony.

But the singer, who is a friend of Dylan’s, had to apologise during her rendition after nerves got the better of her and she forgot the lyrics.

Few predicted that Dylan would be awarded the prize when the announcement was made in October.

The 75-year-old singer waited two weeks to acknowledge the win and later said he would not travel to Sweden due to “pre-existing commitments”.

The delay was deemed “impolite and arrogant” by Per Wastberg of the Swedish Academy, the body which awards the prize. During his speech, Dylan said he was “out on the road” when he found out the news which took “more than a few minutes to properly process”.

The Swedish Academy defended its decision to extend the award to a genre such as folk music.

Speaking at the dinner, Prof Horace Engdahl of the Swedish Academy, a literary critic, said the choice “seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious”.