Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature this morning. Munro, 82, retired earlier this year, several months after publishing Dear Life, her 14th story collection
In a 2013 interview with the New York Times, Munro said she knew she wanted to be a writer by the time she was 14. “But back then you didn’t go around announcing something like that,” she said. “You didn’t call attention. Maybe it was being Canadian, maybe it was being a woman.”
She published her first story collection in 1968, when she was 37, but didn't achieve a large readership until the late 1970s, when her stories began to appear in the New Yorker. She would eventually publish 14 original short story collections, but she never completed a novel.
“While working on my first five books, I kept wishing I was writing a novel,” she told the Times. “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 Swedish Academy seemed to think so, noting Munro's “finely tuned storytelling” in the bio-bibliography they released this morning.
Some critics consider her a Canadian Chekhov. Her stories are often set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflicts – problems that stem from generational differences and colliding life ambitions. 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.
Munro, who lives in Clinton, Ontario, has won several other literary prizes, including the 2009 Man Booker International Prize and Canada's Governor General award, which she's won three times. She is the 13th woman and the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She beat out Japanese novelist Haruki Marukami, the early favorite to win, and perennial American contenders Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates. The last American awarded the prize was Toni Morrison, who won in 1993.
“It just seems impossible. It seems just so splendid a thing to happen, I can’t describe it, it’s more than I can say” Murno told the CBC this morning, just minutes after her daughter woke her at 4 a.m. to tell her about the prize. “It is so surprising and so wonderful.”
[Image via AP]