Canadian Short Story Writer Wins Nobel Prize

Alice Ann Munro, the Canadian short story writer, has won the Nobel Prize in literature.

She's arguably the most popular writer to win the prestigious award - worth $1.2 million and given for a body of work, not a specific title - since Toni Morrison, the last American to win, did so in 1993.

Munro, 82, has been celebrated for her accessible and moving stories, set mostly in the small towns of her native Ontario. (In a 4-star review, USA TODAY's Claudia Puig called the stories "spare, graceful and beautifully crafted.")

She told The Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this year that she planned to retire after Dear Life, her 14th story collection.

Announcing the award in Stockholm Thursday, the Swedish Academy praised Munro as a "master of the contemporary short story."

She's the 13th woman to win the Nobel in literature since the awards began in 1901. (Herta Muller won in 2009 and Doris Lessing in 2007.)

Frequently published in The New Yorker, Munro's stories have been included in Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Awards.

Her story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" was adapted as the 2006 film Away from Her, starring Julie Christie.

In 2009, Munro won the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work. She also is a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction, starting with Death of the Happy Shades, her 1968 debut collection.

In a review of Too Much Happiness (2009), USA TODAY's Deirdre Donahue wrote that "Munro can still teach younger writers how to write marvelously muscular short fiction. These stories have more plot and energy than most novels."

The critic and novelist Cynthia Ozick has called Munro "our Chekhov," referring to the Russian master of short stories.

Her selection was only a bit of an upset - at least to British bookmakers who had tagged Japan's Haruki Murakami as the Nobel front-runner, just ahead of Munro.

She began writing as a teenager and published her first story, "The Dimensions of a Shadow," in 1950 while still a student at the University of Western Ontario. She also worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker and a library clerk.

In Oslo, Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told reporters that Munro is capable of a "fantastic portrayal of human beings." Whether she is really finished writing, he said, is up to her.

"She has done a marvelous job," Englund said. "What she has done is quite enough to win the Nobel Prize. If she wants to stop writing, that's her decision."

Since the prize was first awarded in 1901, a majority of the winners have been European - although Mario Vargas Llosa, a native of Peru who moved to Spain, won in 2011.

American critics have suggested Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy as prospective Nobel winners.

The Nobel's official website lists the most popular literature laureates in order of popularity: John Steinbeck; Rabindranath Tagore; Ernest Hemingway; William Faulkner; Gabriel García Márquez; Winston Churchill; Pablo Neruda; William Golding; and Albert Camus.


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