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Friday October 11, 2013 MYT 1:10:00 PM
Friday October 11, 2013 MYT 1:35:50 PM
by peter harmsen
Alice Munro is just the 13th woman to win the Nobel Literature Prize since it was first awarded in 1901.
First-time win for Canadian literature.
CANADA’S Alice Munro won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday for her short stories that focus on the frailties of the human condition, just the 13th woman to win the coveted award.
The Swedish Academy described Munro, 82, as a “master of the contemporary short story”, a genre that has only rarely been honoured with the world’s most prestigious literary prize.
Munro said she was “just terribly surprised” – and delighted – to learn that she had won the Nobel, after being woken by her daughter with the news.
“I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win,” she said, in comments reported by the Canadian broadcaster CBC.
She said she always viewed winning the Nobel as “one of those pipe dreams” that “might happen, but it probably wouldn’t”.
The Swedish Academy was not immediately able to reach Munro with the happy news, and eventually resorted to Twitter in search of the elusive laureate.
After a three-hour quest the academy finally managed to reach her, according to a spokesman.
The Swedish Academy hailed Munro’s “finely tuned storytelling, which is characterised by clarity and psychological realism”.
“Some critics consider her a Canadian Chekhov,” it said.
“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.”
Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, spoke of Munro’s “phenomenal” intelligence and capacity for introspection.
“There is a kind of tenderness in her writing,” he told reporters.
“She writes about ordinary people with all their flaws and shortcomings, and yet with her tender approach she tells us the truth about people in a way so we can handle it.”
Munro’s works include Who Do You Think You Are? (1978), The Moons Of Jupiter (1982), Runaway (2004), The View From Castle Rock (2006) and Too Much Happiness (2009).
The collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) became the basis of the 2006 film Away from Her directed by Sarah Polley. Munro’s most recent collection is Dear Life (2012).
Born on July 10, 1931 in Ontario, Canada, she grew up in the countryside.
At just 11 years old, she decided she wanted to be a writer, and never wavered in her career choice.
“I think maybe I was successful in doing this because I didn’t have any other talents,” she once said in an interview posted on YouTube.
“I’m not really an intellectual,” Munro said. “I was an okay housewife but I wasn’t that great. There was never anything else that I was really drawn to doing so nothing interfered in the way life interferes for so many people.”
Her focus on writing means she does not revel in book-signing events or other publicity work.
“She is not a socialite. She is actually rarely seen in public, and does not go on book tours,” commented American literary critic David Homel.
Munro herself has said she writes about the “underbelly of relationships”.
She said she sets her stories in Canada “because I live life here at a level of irritation which I would not achieve in a place that I knew less well”.
“There are no such things as big and little subjects,” she has said. “The major things, the evils, that exist in the world have a direct relationship to the evil that exists around a dining room table when people are doing things to each other.”
In 2009, Munro won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for her body of work.
Tipped as one of the favourites in the days before Thursday’s announcement, Munro is just the 13th woman to win the Nobel Literature Prize since it was first awarded in 1901.
The last woman to receive it was Herta Mueller of Germany in 2009.
She is also the first Canadian to win the prestigious honour. Saul Bellow, who won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1976, was born in Canada, but had become a US citizen by the time he was awarded the prize.
Munro will receive the prize sum of 8mil Swedish kronor (RM3.9mil).
She will be presented with her award at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on Dec 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
Last year, the award went to Chinese novelist Mo Yan. – AFP
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