Canadian Alice Munro is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2013. The announcement was made in October by the Swedish Academy. This prize is awarded for a body of work, rather than one manuscript. Munro has been recognised with many other awards in Canada and internationally, including the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 for her overall contribution to fiction.
Further details on the Nobel Prize in Literature are here.
She is known for her compelling short stories, and her ability to capture human frailties and insights into peoples' lives. At 82 years old, she had been writing for 60 years and has published many short story collections. Her most recent is Dear Life published in 2012.
Munro is the first Canadian and only the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. This award is a great boost for short story writing, often considered the poor relation to full length novels. The short form is restricted in the words it can use in conveying setting, plot and character development. But this can also be its strength in the hands of an author like Munro who crafts her tales with economical prose, conveying much in few words, making astute observations on the lives and times she portrays.
Munro is untouched by literary fashion. A writer more interested in commercial success would likely turn to writing novels. She found her strength early and stuck to it, with high praise and just reward.
Alice Munro is not a high brow, inaccessible writer, as many would assume a Nobel Prize winner to be. Her style is not florid or challenging. Her stories are often set in rural and small town Canada among ordinary farmers, labourers, teachers and children. Munro's own early environment and upbringing provided much of the material here. The stories are centred around domestic scenes and relationships - mothers, daughters, husbands, aunts, grandparents, sisters, best friends.
Her collections deal with many of the commonplaces of life, birth and death. Death and our responses to it are among her recurring themes. The narrowness of her settings and characters do not limit her message, but convey the universal importance of human connection, the value of friendship and the mystery of love.
Munro explores confronting issues, particularly for women in grappling with social expectations and relationships with each other and with men. Her tales are not always gentle. Brutality, tragedy and heartbreak are peppered among the day to day as they are in our own lives.
While many pieces are set in earlier times, they are timeless in grappling with the issues of any era and the intimacy of human relationships. She captures the inner longings and impressions of her characters, enabling the reader intimate glimpses into the lives of others.
Alice Munro's mastery of the short story genre makes her a worthy Nobel Prize in Literature winner.
Her collections of short stories include:
Dance of the Happy Shades and Other Stories
Lives of Girls and Women
Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You
Who Do You Think You Are?
The Moons of Jupiter
The Progress of Love
The Love of a Good Woman
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
The View from Castle Rock
Too Much Happiness
Alice Munro's Best: Selected Stories