She revolutionized the architecture of short stories beginning a story in an unexpected place, moving backward and forward in time, with a wit that readers often traced to her background growing up in rural Canada.
Alice Munro knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was a youngster and wrote constantly while she helped her first husband James Munro run a bookstore and raise their three daughters.
‘For years and years, I thought that writing short stories were just practice until I got the time to write a novel. Then I found they were all I could do, so I faced that.’
The Nobel Committee said that some critics consider Munro a Canadian Chekov.
‘She is acclaimed for her finely tuned storytelling which is characterized by clarity and psychological realism. Her tales are set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflict.’
The reoccurring themes in her writing are about the lives of girls and women set in rural Ontario, frequently addressing the subtleties of class distinction, the intricacies of women’s sexuality and the complex problems of the female artist.
Her stories are superbly crafted and often break the ‘rules’ of short fiction writing. Some stories take a while to get going, and more often than not, the opening of a story gives little indication of where it will end up in terms of plot of time. She creates ‘swerves’ as the tale quietly moves off in an unexpected direction. There are few neatly tied-up endings and the reader is usually left with something to ponder about.
Although she has lived in other cities, Munro returned many years ago to the landscape of her childhood. She lives like her characters in a small-town world where it is possible to know things about people and sometimes to be surprised what they do next. By leaving and then returning to the countryside where she grew up, the natural shape of her wonderful stories comes from a sense of the way life goes.
She has become world renown for writing about everyday people.
‘Here we have a world prize won by someone who writes about housewives in Vancouver, booksellers in Victoria, bean farmers in Huron County and accountants and teachers and librarians-ordinary Canadian people who Alice Munro turns into magic.’
She is the first Canadian woman to win The Noble Prize in Literature and only the 13th woman to have won.
‘When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world,’ she said. ‘Now Canadian writers are read, admired and respected around the globe.’
She said she was thrilled to be chosen for the prize, adding, ‘I hope it fosters further interest in all Canadian writers.’
Alice Munro’s first collection Dance of the Happy Shades (1968) won the Governor General’s Award. She has won many awards since then for her short fiction culminating in the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime achievement in 2009.