top of page
TheConversation-purplebg-461666-450.jpg
Search
  • NYS Writers Institute

Canadian writer and Nobel prize winner Alice Munro dies at 92

“Books seem to me to be magic, and I wanted to be part of the magic.” -- Alice Munro

Alice Munro in 2009, the year she won the Man Booker International Prize. (Associated Press)


Alice Ann Munro, the Canadian short story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, died Monday at her home in Port Hope, Ontario, at the age of 92. The news was confirmed by her publisher, Penguin Random House Canada.


Munro's work has been described as revolutionizing the architecture of the short story, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time, and with integrated short fiction cycles.


Munro published 14 short story collections, as well as the novel Lives of Girls and Women, and was a regular contributor in literary magazines such as The New Yorker and Tamarack Review. Her first story collection, Dance of the Happy Shades won Canada's prestigious Governor's General's Award.


In 2013, Munro was selected as Nobel Laureate in Literature for her body of work spanning seven decades. The Nobel Committee described Munro as a “master of the contemporary short story,” whose writing captured “the feeling of just being a human being.”


"Disliking Munro, as a writer or as a person, seemed almost heretical," wrote Hillel Italie for the Associated Press. "The wide and welcoming smile captured in her author photographs was complemented by a down-to-earth manner and eyes of acute alertness, fitting for a woman who seemed to pull stories out of the air the way songwriters discovered melodies. She was admired without apparent envy, placed by the likes of Jonathan Franzen, John Updike and Cynthia Ozick at the very top of the pantheon.


Munro’s daughter, Sheila Munro, wrote the 2001 memoir Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up With Alice Munro” in which she confided that 'so unassailable is the truth of her fiction that sometimes I even feel as though I’m living inside an Alice Munro story.'


'Back in the 1950s and 60s, when Munro began, there was a feeling that not only female writers but Canadians were thought to be both trespassing and transgressing,' Margaret Atwood wrote in a 2013 tribute published in the Guardian after Munro won the Nobel. 'The road to the Nobel wasn’t an easy one for Munro: the odds that a literary star would emerge from her time and place would once have been zero.'"


Remembrances

Joyce Carol Oates: Munro's stories “have the density — moral, emotional, sometimes historical — of other writers’ novels.”

Richard Ford: “With Alice it’s like a shorthand. You’ll just mention her, and everybody just kind of generally nods that she’s just sort of as good as it gets.”

Margaret Atwood: “Few writers have explored such processes more thoroughly, and more ruthlessly [than Munro]. Hands, chairs, glances – all are part of an intricate inner map strewn with barbed wire and booby traps, and secret paths through the shrubbery.”

Jonathan Franzen: “[Munro] is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion.”

Canadian novelist Heather O’Neill: “Devastated to her about Alice Munro’s passing. Last month I reread all of Alice Munro’s books. I felt the need to be close to her. Every time I read her is a new experience. Every time changes me. She will live forever.”

NPR critic Alan Cheuse: "Munro focuses on every aspect of our ordinary existence and makes it seem as extraordinary as it actually is."


The Nobel Prize video interview

While Munro was unable to attend the prize ceremony in Stockholm in 2013, she recorded a video interview for the event. “I want my stories to move people,” Munro said in her Nobel Lecture in absentia, “everything the story tells moves the (reader) in such a way that you feel you are a different person when you finish.”



An appreciation

The Essential Alice Munro: The only prerequisite for reading the Nobel laureate, a master of short stories, is: having lived. Here’s where to start.

By Ben Dolnick, published Jan. 24, 2024, New York Times


Before I’d read Alice Munro — when my knowledge of her amounted to an oafish word cloud (“older woman,” “Canadian,” “short stories”) — I imagined that the experience of reading her books, if I ever bothered to, would be like listening to classical music on fancy headphones in a college library: civilized, subtle, probably sleep-inducing.


But then I actually read Munro, and she lifted off my headphones in order to whisper an insane, unforgettable piece of gossip about that anxiety-stricken T.A. over by the copy machine. It turns out that Alice Munro — Nobel laureate, Author Most Likely to Endure, object of universal writerly reverence and envy — is not just important, but fun. Her books don’t belong on a high shelf; they belong in the passenger seat of your car, in the tote bag you bring to the grocery store. She writes about penises that look “blunt and stupid, compared, say, to fingers and toes with their intelligent expressiveness”; old people who smell like rank flower water; the way that couples breaking up occasionally interrupt the solemn proceedings to have passionate sex. Read more


Update

In celebration of her life and work, The Paris Review we’ve unlocked two stories by Alice Munro: “Spaceships Have Landed” and “Circle of Prayer.” https://www.theparisreview.org/authors/3039/alice-munro


More reading

Alice Munro: Five Classic Short Stories, Barron's, Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Alice Munro Reinvigorated the Short Story, The New Yorker, Tuesday, May 14, 2024

No One Wrote About Sex Like Alice Munro, Vulture, Wednesday, May 14, 2024

Alice Munro: Our Chekhov, The New Yorker, October 10, 2013

Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction No. 137, The Paris Review, Summer 1994




Comments


bottom of page