Alice Munro proud of Nobel Prize in literature win

Canadian author Alice Munro — lauded as a "stunningly precise" writer — said she was proud as she watched her daughter Jenny accept the Nobel Prize on her behalf in Stockholm today.

Canadian author's works lauded for 'serenity and simplicity'

Alice Munro

8 years ago
Duration 3:08
A talk with the Nobel Prize-winning author

Canadian author Alice Munro — lauded as a "stunningly precise" writer — said she was proud as she watched her daughter Jenny accept the Nobel Prize on her behalf in Stockholm today. 

"To get the prize, yes, it’s quite amazing — and it has been since I knew about it," Munro told CBC News from her daughter Sheila's home in B.C. 

The 82-year-old author was unable to travel to Sweden to accept her prize in person due to poor health.

"I’m very glad to have got it, but I'm not under any illusion that it was the only good book around," she said.

Munro reflected on a writing life that began when she was a girl growing up in rural Ontario with "unreasonable" expectations.

"I expected to be famous some day," the short story legend told The Canadian Press. 

"This is because I lived in a very small town and there was nobody who liked the same things I did, like writing, and so I just thought naturally, some day I'm going to write books, and it happened.

"It was the only way a very out-of-the-world person could do it, because I just had no idea about how I was going to achieve this. But I just made up stories all the time that I thought that some day I would tell them to people."

Jenny Munro accepted her mother's Nobel Prize for literature from King Carl Gustaf of Sweden. 

"Alice Munro portrays with almost anthropological precision a recognizable, tranquil, everyday world with predictable, external accoutrements," said permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund when Munro was announced as the winner.

"This flat, Canadian, agricultural landscape, with its broad rivers and seemingly bland, small towns is where most of her short stories unfold. But the serenity and simplicity are deceptive in every way." 

The announcement of each year's Nobel winners typically sparks some debate or discussion, but the choice of Munro in October had virtually no detractors, according to Englund.

I want my stories to move people. I don't care if they are men or women or children ... I want people to find not so much inspiration as great enjoyment. That's what I want: I want people to enjoy my books, to think of them as related to their own lives.- Alice Munro- Alice Munro

"The remarkable thing with this prize, and it stands out, is the popularity," he told The Canadian Press in a recent interview from Stockholm.

"But it's obviously about Alice Munro and her writing — it's, in many ways, impeccable. From my 10 years of experience of handing out the Nobel Prize here in Stockholm, I've never seen a prize so popular."

When asked about the fact that honouring her seemed to spark none of the usual controversy, Munro told CBC News, "Well, I'm old and that's part of it." 

 "You know when someone's been working for a long time and very hard, as I have, there's a general feeling — I think — of goodwill towards this person and I benefited from that. But I would also like to think that they really liked my work."  

Dubbed by the Swedish Academy as "the master of the contemporary short story," Munro reigns atop a list of the most popular literature laureates on the Nobel website, ranking higher than past winners such as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Following her win, sales of her books also spiked significantly at home and abroad. For instance, sales of Munro titles increased 4,424 per cent in Canada, and increased 4,214 per cent in Italy, 2,625 per cent in Ireland and 1,890 per cent in Spain, according to figures released by BookNet Canada. 

Daughter accepts award

Jenny Munro said she received a warm reception in Stockholm, where the Nobel Prize award ceremony is a "huge deal." She told CBC News in a phone interview that she has had people from all over the world come up to her and ask her to pass on their congratulations to her mother.

"I'm having to accept a lot of love for her," she said. "It doesn't matter where they're from — whether it's Japan or China or Cuba, or whether they're from a big city or a small city, whether they're writers or not — they're very, very ecstatic and knew of her writing before this happened. Much of her readership has been larger than we thought. It's wonderful."

She said the prize is a great honour not just for her mother, but for the country.

"I'm very proud for Canada," she said. "The only other Canadian [who has won the prize] is Saul Bellow, who actually left when he was 11, so is American and is not really counted as Canadian."

'I want people to enjoy my books'

As part of the celebrations, Nobel organizers unveiled an extended interview this weekend that they had previously filmed with Munro in Canada.

"I want my stories to move people. I don't care if they are men or women or children. I want my stories to be something about life that causes people to say — not 'Oh, isn't that the truth,' — but to feel some kind of reward from the writing. And that doesn't mean that it has to be a happy ending or anything, but just that everything the story tells moves the reader in such a way that you feel you are a different person when you finish," Munro said.

"I want people to find not so much inspiration as great enjoyment. That's what I want: I want people to enjoy my books, to think of them as related to their own lives in ways."

With files from The Canadian Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?