STOCKHOLM – Short story master Alice Munro, who captured everyday lives and epiphanies in rural Canada with elegant and precise prose, won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday.
Seen as a contemporary Chekhov for her warmth, insight and compassion, Munro delves into a wide range of lives and personalities without passing judgment on her characters, often girls and women. Her stories are acclaimed for their unique and piercing insight into the ordinary personal dramas in the towns and farming communities of her home region of southwestern Ontario.
Unusually for Nobel winners, Munro’s work consists almost entirely of short stories. “Lives of Girls and Women” is her only novel, and even that is often described as a collection of linked stories.
“I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win,” the 82-year-old said by telephone when contacted by the Canadian Press in Victoria, B.C.
Munro told Canadian broadcaster CBC she was “surprised and delighted” at the news, which she heard in a pre-dawn phone call from her daughter.
“It just seems impossible. It seems so splendid a thing to happen that I can’t describe it. It’s more than I can say,” Munro said.
Munro is beloved among her peers, from Lorrie Moore and George Saunders to Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen. She is equally admired by critics. 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 honor.
Other short story collections include “Who Do You Think You Are?,” “The Progress of Love,” and “Runaway.”
Atwood – a fellow Canadian who also figured prominently in the Nobel buzz – tweeted, “Hooray! Alice Munro wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.”
The award is likely to be the capstone to a career that has spanned more than four decades. She told Canada’s National Post in June that she was “probably not going to write anymore.”