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Page 3 Profile: Alice Munro, author

Once upon a time…

There was a very talented, and well-respected author named Alice Munro. She wrote many books, which people liked very much, and was rewarded with prizes.

And her biggest prize of all was?

The Nobel Prize for Literature, which was awarded to her yesterday. Munro becomes the first Canadian, and 13th woman, to win the coveted prize, established in 1901. And she’s in good company: former winners include James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust and Henrik Ibsen.

Wow, she’s in good company!

Indeed, and her place among them is well deserved. One fellow writer described her as “our Checkov”, while the Nobel academy lauded her a “master of the contemporary short story”.

So she’s not a novelist?

No, although people sometimes mistake her collections of interlinked stories, such as Lives of Girls and Women published in 1971, as single works of literature. It’s a point of debate amongst bookish types, but we reckon author Alex Keegan says it best: “Who cares? In most Munro stories there is as much as in many novels.”

She’s quite good then?

Not half. She’s been showered with praise from those in the literary know – and won the Man Booker prize back in 2009. Her prose is said to evoke the ambiguities of life – irony and sincerity, godliness and bigotry, and all that. Her stories are often recognisable for being set in the rural Canada of her wartime upbringing, where she worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker and a library clerk before opening a book shop.

Quite a journey.

Yes, and at points, a difficult one. Munro has received treatment for cancer and has had heart bypass surgery. In 2006, she suggested she would be setting down her pen for good, but thankfully she continued writing. Now aged 82, let’s hope she has a story or two yet to tell.

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