Why Alice Munro, Canadian writer who shocked readers with her writing, will be missed


Alice Munro

By Nehru Odeh

Alice Munro, Canadian writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature died on Monday night at 92. Her family and publisher Penguin Random House, Canada confirmed she died at her home in Port Hope, Ontario.

Munro, who was unapologetic about her unique writing style, wrote short stories for more than 60 years, often focusing on life in rural Canada.

However, she will be remembered as a craftsman known for her intricately paced short stories that could devastate a reader. Her characters often lived in rural Ontario, like Munro herself.

She was often compared to Russian writer Anton Chekhov for the insight and compassion found in her stories.

“Alice Munro is a national treasure – a writer of enormous depth, empathy, and humanity whose work is read, admired, and cherished by readers throughout Canada and around the world,” Kristin Cochrane, the CEO of Penguin Random House Canada, said in a statement.

In an interview after winning the Nobel Prize, she said that living in a small town gave her the freedom to write. “I don’t think I could have been so brave if I had been living in a town, competing with people on what can be called a generally higher cultural level,” she said. “I was the only person I knew who wrote stories, though I didn’t tell them to anybody, and as far as I knew, at least for a while, I was the only person who could do this in the world.”

Throughout her long career, she was extremely consistent. She hardly ever failed to wow readers and critics with her quietly powerful language. In reviewing her last collection, 2012’s Dear Life, NPR critic Alan Cheuse wrote “Munro focuses on every aspect of our ordinary existence and makes it seem as extraordinary as it actually is.”

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature the year after Dear Life was published, but she was “too frail” to attend the ceremonies. So instead of the usual lecture, she opted for an interview where she was asked “Do you want young women to be inspired by your books and feel inspired to write?” To which she replied, “I don’t care what they feel as long as they enjoy reading the book.”

“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.”

In 2009, Munro won the Man Booker Prize International Prize for lifetime achievement. The judges said in a statement at the time: “To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before.”

They added that Munro “brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels”.

She later won the Nobel Prize in 2013. The Nobel committee called Munro a “master of contemporary short story”.

Munro said in an interview with the Guardian in 2013 that she had been “writing personal stories all my life”.

“Maybe I write stories that people get very involved in, maybe it is the complexity and the lives presented in them,” she told the Guardian in 2013. “I hope they are a good read. I hope they move people.”

Her first major breakthrough came in 1968, when her short story collection, Dance of The Happy Shades, about life in the suburbs of western Ontario, won Canada’s highest literary honour, the Governor General’s Award. It was the first of three Governor General’s Awards she would win in her lifetime.

Munro was the daughter of a fox farmer and a schoolteacher. She was born in 1931 in Wingham, Ontario, an area in which many of her stories are set. She also chronicled the region’s people, culture and the way of life.

Some of her stories compared life before and after the social revolution of the 1960s. “Having been born in 1931, I was a little old, but not too old, and women like me after a couple of years were wearing miniskirts and prancing around,” she said.

Munro has published thirteen collections of stories as well as one novel, Lives of Girls and Women, and two volumes of Selected Stories.

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