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Literary Canada buzzes as Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for Literature


Canada, and particularly Victoria in British Columbia, is a buzz this morning with the news that Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The 82-year-old, famous for writing short stories, is the 110th Nobel laureate in literature and the 13th woman to receive the prize.

Munro last published work was in 2012, a collection called Dear Life, and she is now retired from writing. Her best known collections are Dance of the Happy Shades (her debut from 1968), The Progress of Love from 1986, 2004’s Runaway and Who Do You Think You Are? from 1978.

She has also won the Man Booker International Prize and a host of Canadian book awards, including two Giller Prizes and three Governor General’s Literary Awards.The award is around 8,000,000 Swedish krona (about $1.3 million). She’s in good company as past winners include George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Hesse and T.S. Eliot. Chinese writer Mo Yan won last year.

Munro has only written one novel, Lives of Girls and Women, and she has described that decision to try the longer format as a mistake.

In Canada, she does not have the same high profile as Margaret Atwood, who is rarely absent from the headlines, but she is very much viewed as an iconic writer. Born in 1931, Munro has a lasting legacy in Victoria, B.C. thanks to the bookshop she founded here with her first husband, Jim. Munro’s is quite simply one of the finest bookstores on the North American west coast and every booklover in Victoria has spent many hours browsing its shelves. I’m sure the staff will be beaming when they open up the store in a few minutes.

Munro’s first marriage ended in divorce and she moved to Ontario, and eventually married Gerald Fremlin.

Her writing career took off immediately with Dance of the Happy Shades winning the Governor General’s Literary Award. In 2009, she won the Man Booker International Prize for her entire body of work.

Apparently, Munro is in Victoria now and the man on the radio told me she was woken at 4am with the news from Stockholm.

Signed copies of her books are easy to find. Prices for rare editions are very affordable and that perhaps shows that short stories are not always collectible.

Short Story Collections

Dance of the Happy Shades – 1968

Lives of Girls and Women – 1971

Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You – 1974

Who Do You Think You Are? – 1978

The Moons of Jupiter – 1982

The Progress of Love – 1986

Friend of My Youth – 1990

Open Secrets – 1994

The Love of a Good Woman – 1998

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – 2001

Runaway – 2004

The View from Castle Rock – 2006

Too Much Happiness – 2009

Dear Life – 2012

Compilations

Selected Stories – 1996

No Love Lost – 2003

Vintage Munro – 2004

Carried Away: A Selection of Stories – 2006

New Selected Stories – 2011

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Richard Davies

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