Canada’s Munro startled by Nobel literature prize award

Cover of Alice Munro's book Runaway

Photo by Matthew Allard via WikiCommons

Canadian writer Alice Munro has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the 13th woman to win and the first Canadian to take the prize since Saul Bellow in 1976.

Initially, the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, was unable to contact the author.  When The Canadian Press reached her, she said she was “terribly surprised” and that the prize was “quite wonderful”.

The Academy recognised her as one of the foremost short story writers, saying she is “a master of the contemporary short story”. She has been compared to Anton Chekov for the subtle beauty of her stories, and while this comparison is flung about readily, she is the most deserved recipient.

Her work deals primarily with rural Canadian life. She is internationally acclaimed and has earned numerous prizes and awards including the Man Booker International prize, the Rea Award for the Short Story, PEN/ Malamud Award and the Governor-General’s Award (Canada’s most prestigious literary prize).

There has been a certain amount of surprise over the choosing of Ms Munro. Spectators have become used to the Academy awarding more obscure writers with the prize. It was presumed that they would favour a writer outside of the English-language literary world. Ms Munro is a particularly accessible choice.

Such writers, who seemed to be forerunners leading up to the announcement, included: Romanian writer, Mircea Cartarescu; Norwegian dramatist, Jon Fosse; Russian documentary writer, Svetlana Alexievich.

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has long been considered a major contender and American musician Bob Dylan has also been tipped to win for a number of years.

Other prizes that have been awarded this year include the Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 which went jointly to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs. The chemistry award was presented jointly to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013 was jointly awarded to James E Rothman, Randy W Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize. The 2013 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was awarded jointly to Eugene F. Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert J. Shiller.

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