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.
Munro is the first Canadian writer to receive the prestigious $1.2 million award from the Swedish Academy since Saul Bellow, who left for the U.S. as a boy and won in 1976.
Seen as a contemporary Chekhov for her warmth, insight and compassion, she 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, British Columbia.
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.”