Alice Munro Becomes First Canadian and 13th Woman to Win Nobel Prize for Literature

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 10 2013 8:34 AM

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

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Alice Munro, a master of the short story, is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Photo by PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

Very early this morning a representative from the Swedish Academy called the short story writer Alice Munro on the phone at her home in Ontario. She did not answer. The Swedish Academy left a message.

Later, Munro’s daughter got a hold of her to tell her the news: She had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Munro is the first Canadian to win the award. (Saul Bellow was born in Canada but spent most of his life in the United States.) She is also just the 13th woman to win in the 112 years since the prize was established. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, she is a writer exclusively of short stories, and has published 14 collections, the first, Dance of the Happy Shades, in 1968, when she was 37.

Informed by the CBC that she was just the 13th woman to win, Munro said, “Can this be possible, really? That seems to me dreadful that there are only 13 of us.” As for why the Academy could not reach her on the phone this morning: “It’s the middle of the night here and I had forgotten about it all, of course.”

Back in June, the 82-year-old writer said she was “probably not going to write anymore.” When asked about winning a major Canadian award for her most recent collection, Dear Life, which she has described as her most autobiographical, Munro said, “it’s nice to go out with a bang.”

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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