Above: Alice Munro joins the ranks of literary greats and become the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mike Drolet reports.
TORONTO – Decorated Canadian author Alice Munro says she never thought she would win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but calls being the first Canadian-based writer to secure the honour “quite wonderful.”
The 82-year-old writer was named Thursday as the 110th Nobel laureate in literature and the only the 13th woman to receive the distinction.
“I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win,” Munro said by telephone when contacted by The Canadian Press in Victoria.
“It’s just a tremendous deal, she said. “I’m… too frazzled to think of it. I’m delighted to of course. I’m just terribly surprised. It’s quite wonderful.”
READ MORE: Who is Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro?
An official at The Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel literature winners, called Munro a “master of the contemporary short story” when her name was announced and greeted with applause from a packed room.
Video: Munro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature
Considered one of the world’s greatest living writers of short stories, Munro last published the 2012 collection Dear Life, which won the Ontario-born writer her third Trillium Book Award.
She has also previously won the Man Booker International Prize for her entire body of work, as well as two Scotiabank Giller Prizes, three Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the inaugural Marian Engel Award and the American National Book Critics Circle Award.
She had been considered a perennial contender for the Nobel prize in literature, with British-based betting company Ladbrokes positioning her as the second-most likely recipient this year behind Japanese master Haruki Murakami.
Among Munro’s celebrated works are her 1968 debut Dance of the Happy Shades, 1986’s The Progress of Love, 2004’s Runaway and 1978’s Who Do You Think You Are?
Past winners include such literary luminaries as George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Hesse, T.S. Eliot and Toni Morrison, with the last three prizes being awarded to Chinese writer Mo Yan, Sweden’s Tomas Transtromer and Spanish scribe Mario Vargas Llosa. Canadian-born, American-raised writer Saul Bellow won in 1976.
The award money fluctuates, but in 2012 the monetary value of the prize was 8,000,000 Swedish krona (roughly $1.3 million).
Munro is beloved by readers around the world for her striking portraits of women living in small-town Ontario.
Munro’s most recent works include the 2009 short story collection entitled Too Much Happiness, which was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award and a Writers’ Trust Award, and 2012’s Dear Life.
Fellow short story writer Cynthia Ozick has called Munro “our Chekhov.”
Of her own work, Munro has said: “I want to tell a story, in the old-fashioned way – what happens to somebody – but I want that ‘what happens’ to be delivered with quite a bit of interruption, turnarounds, and strangeness. I want the reader to feel something is astonishing – not the ‘what happens’ but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me.”
Three years ago, in an interview at Toronto’s International Festival of Authors, Munro revealed she’d been through a battle with cancer but did not provide specifics.
And this past June, she said she was “probably not going to write anymore.”
Thursday morning, she was succinct: “It’s just great,” said the author.
“At this moment I can’t believe it. It’s really very wonderful.”
© 2013 The Canadian Press