Nobel winner Alice Munro: "master of the contemporary short story"

Alice Munro at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto in 2009 (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Alice Munro at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto in 2009 (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)


Alice Munro has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first Canadian woman to ever receive the honour.

Munro, only the 13th woman to receive the award since its inception in 1901, was lauded by the Swedish Academy during the Nobel announcement in Stockholm as the "master of the contemporary short story."

In the wake of the announcement, Jian gets reaction from The New Yorker's fiction editor Deborah Treisman and Canadian novelist and short story writer Joseph Boyden.

Treisman, who has been editing Munro's short stories for over a decade, said the win has been a "long time coming."

"Her name has come up now for years, every October, and there was always a slight deflation when her name wasn't called," she said.

Treisman offered Jian a little insight into Munro's writing process. "She never talks about themes. I don't think she thinks in themes," she said, "themes obviously emerge but I get the sense that she's feeling her way through stories, not thinking her way through stories."

"She's creating people and then watching them interact, and I think sometimes they surprise her."

Boyden agreed: "It's like she's gleefully discovering this world herself"

The novelist and teacher called Munro the bane of every writing teachers existence. In class, he teaches his students of short fiction not to rely on exposition, not to use an omniscient narrator and not to go past a certain number of pages.

"She breaks all of those rules in such an amazing way," he said. "She's singular in what she does."

Munro in her own words

Munro was no longer taking calls by air time today, but our friends at CBC News reached her phone bright and early on Thursday morning.

Munro spoke to CBC News Network's early morning host Heather Hiscox in a telephone interview embedded below.

media clip

She also spoke to CBC World Report host David Common, telling him she didn't even know she was on the list until yesterday.

"I think there will now be more thought about Canadian writers as a whole. I think this will help boost our idea of Canadian writing in the world," she said. 

And here's a little bonus material, now over three decades old, courtesy of our friends at the CBC Digital Archives. In 1982, Munro discussed one of her short stories with CBC Radio's legendary broadcaster Peter Gzowski.

Listen to their conversation below.

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