Nobel Prize in Literature Is Awarded to Canadian ; Alice Munro Explores Tangled Relationships in Her Short Stories

By Bosman, Julie | International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Nobel Prize in Literature Is Awarded to Canadian ; Alice Munro Explores Tangled Relationships in Her Short Stories


Bosman, Julie, International Herald Tribune


Alice Munro, a Canadian short-story writer whose visceral work explores the tangled relationships between men and women, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Alice Munro, the renowned Canadian short-story writer whose visceral work explores the tangled relationships between men and women, small-town existence and the fallibility of memory, was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Ms. Munro, 82, is the 13th woman to be awarded the prize.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy said Ms. Munro, who has written 14 story collections, was a "master of the contemporary short story."

The selection of Ms. Munro was greeted with an outpouring of enthusiasm in the English-speaking world, a temporary relief from recent years when the Swedish Academy chose winners who were obscure, difficult to comprehend or overtly political.

Ms. Munro, widely beloved for her spare and psychologically astute fiction that is deeply revealing of human nature, appeared to be more of a purely literary choice. She revolutionized the architecture of short stories, often beginning a story in an unexpected place then moving backward or forward in time. She brought a modesty and subtle wit to her work that admirers often traced to her background growing up in rural Canada, which served as the location for many of her stories.

Her last collection, "Dear Life," published last year, appears to be her last. She told the National Post of Canada this year that she was finished writing, a sentiment she echoed in other interviews.

She also seemed to have finished paying attention to major literary awards, if she ever did in the first place. On Thursday morning, the Swedish Academy was unable to locate Ms. Munro before it made the announcement public, according to the Twitter account for the Nobel Prize. It left a phone message instead.

Ms. Munro, who lives in Clinton, a town in Ontario, eventually found out that she had won while visiting her daughter in Victoria, British Columbia, who woke her at 4 a.m. with the news. Sounding a bit groggy, and at times emotional, she spoke with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just a few minutes later by telephone.

"It just seems impossible," she said. "It seems just so splendid a thing to happen, I can't describe it, it's more than I can say."

She later added, "I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel."

In a statement, Ms. Munro also said: "This is so surprising and wonderful. I am dazed by all the attention and affection that has been coming my way this morning. It is such an honor to receive this wonderful recognition from the Nobel Committee and I send them my thanks.

"When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world. Now Canadian writers are read, admired and respected around the globe. I'm so thrilled to be chosen as this year's Nobel Prize for Literature recipient. I hope it fosters further interest in all Canadian writers."

Waking up to the early-morning news that Ms. Munro was the recipient, her admirers were jubilant, especially in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement praising Ms. Munro as the first Canadian woman to be awarded the Nobel in literature. "Canadians are enormously proud of this remarkable accomplishment, which is the culmination of a lifetime of brilliant writing," he said.

On Twitter, congratulations rolled in from publishers, literary magazines and fellow writers, including Margaret Atwood and Nathan Englander.

"A true master of the form," Salman Rushdie wrote.

Readers used Twitter to send messages with Munro quotes ("the constant happiness is curiosity" was one favorite). Some people wondered if Ms. Munro's win was an indication that the short story was entering a golden age, as most Nobel laureates tend to focus on novels or poems. …

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