Alice Munro: Nobel Laureate in Literature

Monday, March 31 2014

Alice Munro is the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since its inception in 1901 and the first fully Canadian to do so as well. Munro, 82, has been chosen for her mastery of the short story. The Swedish Academy has awarded her 8 million Swedish kroner (aprox. $1.2million) for this honor.

Munro is called the Canadian Chekov for her body of short stories centering on the human spirit and the complexities of small town life. It is unusual for a short story writer to win the prize. In the words of Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy "She has taken an art form, the short story, which has tended to come a little bit in the shadow behind the novel, and she has cultivated it almost to perfection."

Munro does not leave her readers indifferent. In fact, she is able to connect to them on a profound, emotional level by her ability to hone in on universal stories inherent in everyday life. She purposefully skews politics and time, preferring to focus instead on the human condition, on society, families and the passing of time in her hometown in Ottawa.

"She has taken an art form, the short story, which has tended to come a little bit in the shadow behind the novel, and she has cultivated it almost to perfection."In fact, many of Munro's works center on female characters that hunger for change, on their experiences as they break out of their molds; as she herself dared to do when she began to craft her own stories. In 2009 she was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for her entire body of work.

"I want to tell a story, in the old-fashioned way — what happens to somebody — but I want that 'what happens' to be delivered with quite a bit of interruption, turnarounds, and strangeness. I want the reader to feel something is astonishing — not the 'what happens' but the way everything happens." – Alice Munro

Munro is characterized by her humility and elegance. Aside for calling the award "a wonderful thing," Munro hopes the recognition will help the genre of the short story gain notoriety.

What people have to say about Munro:
"The surface of Alice Munro's works, its simplicity and quiet appearance, is a deceptive thing, that beneath that surface is a store of insight, a body of observation, and a world of wisdom that is close to addictive." – Jane Smiley, Man Booker International

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne cited Munro's "Lives of Girls and Women" as a favourite, adding she is "part of a lucky population who has been forever changed by (Munro's) unparalleled ability to articulate the complexity and heartbreaks of everyday life."

"This is not a golfer on a practice tee. This is a gymnast in a plain black leotard, alone on a bare floor, outperforming all the novelists with their flashy costumes and whips and elephants and tigers." – Jonathan Franzen, American novelist.

Munro has been "at the very top of her game since she started...Very few writers are her equal... she gets to the heart of what it is to be human." – Will Gompertz, BBC Arts EditorFellow Canadian and Globe Books Editor, Jared Bland explains why Alice Munro deserved to win in this touching video.

Here the New Yorker dissects her style.

By Alice Munro:

  • Dance of the Happy Shades – 1968 (winner of the 1968 Governor General's Award for Fiction)
  • Lives of Girls and Women – 1971
  • Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You – 1974
  • Who Do You Think You Are? – 1978 (winner of the 1978 Governor General's Award for Fiction; also published as The Beggar Maid)
  • The Moons of Jupiter – 1982 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
  • The Progress of Love – 1986 (winner of the 1986 Governor General's Award for Fiction)
  • Friend of My Youth – 1990 (winner of the Trillium Book Award)
  • Open Secrets – 1994 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
  • The Love of a Good Woman – 1998 (winner of the 1998 Giller Prize)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – 2001 (republished as Away From Her)
  • Runaway – 2004 (winner of the 2004 Giller Prize)
  • The View from Castle Rock – 2006
  • Too Much Happiness – 2009
  • Dear Life – 2012


Amelia is a professional People Person, dedicated to helping people communicate and realize their ideas. After various lives in her native New York City, she has spent the last 8 years in Madrid chasing sunsets and traveling when she can.
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