Canadian writer Munro wins Nobel literature prize

Swedish Academy calls her a ’master of the contemporary short story’

A 2007 file photograph of Canadian writer Alice Munro, who has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Photograph: Mike Cassese/Reuters

A 2007 file photograph of Canadian writer Alice Munro, who has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Photograph: Mike Cassese/Reuters


Canadian writer Alice Munro has won this year’s Nobel Prize in literature.

The Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel literature winners, called her a “master of the contemporary short story”.

Munro is the first Canadian writer to receive the prestigious $1.2 million (€886,000) award since Saul Bellow, who won in 1976 and left for the United States as a boy.

Alice Munro speaks after hearing news

Munro’s writing has brought her numerous awards. She won a National Book Critics Circle prize for Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, and is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s prize, Canada’s highest literary honour.

Often compared to Anton Chekhov, the 82-year-old writer has attained near-canonical status as a thorough, but forgiving, documenter of the human spirit.

Her published work often turns on the difference between Munro’s growing up in Wingham, a conservative Canadian town west of Toronto, and her life after the social revolution of the 1960s.

In an interview with AP in 2003, she described the 1960s as “wonderful.”

It was “because, having been born in 1931, I was a little old, but not too old, and women like me after a couple of years were wearing miniskirts and prancing around,” she said.

Munro started writing stories in her teens. She is mainly known for her short stories and has published many collections over the years.

“Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning,“ the Academy said.

Munro lives in Clinton, not far from her childhood home in southwestern Ontario, Canada. In 2009, she revealed that she had undergone coronary bypass surgery and been treated for cancer. She is known to be averse to publicity and rarely gives interviews.

The short story, a style more popular in the early 20th century, has long taken a back seat to novels. Short stories tend to be set in a more concentrated time frame with a limited number of characters.

Munro herself spoke of the phenomenon in an interview with the New York Times in July. Her short stories have often been called ‘novels in miniature’; a notion she rejects.

“While working on my first five books, I kept wishing I was writing a novel,” she said.

“I thought until you wrote a novel, you weren‘t taken seriously as a writer. It used to trouble me a lot, but nothing troubles me now, and besides there has been a change. I think short stories are taken more seriously now than they were.”

The 2013 Nobel announcements continue tomorrow with the Nobel Peace Prize, followed by the economics prize on Monday.

The literature prize is the fourth of this year‘s crop of prizes, which were established in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and awarded for the first time in 1901.

Associated Press, Reuters