Alice Munro, a writer of Canadian origin has won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Born on 10th July, 1931, has been an aspiring writer since her teenage years. Her first story, “The Dimensions of a Shadow,” was written in 1950 while studying English and journalism at the University of Western Ontario.
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature cites Alice Munro, as the “master of the contemporary short story,” It is rare for a short story writer to make the Nobel.
In an interview after the announcement, Peter Englund the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said, “I think no one has better deconstructed the central myth of modern romantic love; not just saying it means this or means that, but showing that people can feel very, very different things about it…. She is a fantastic portrayer of human beings.”
Munro’s books include:
Dear Life. “This collection of stories illuminates moments that shape a life, from a dream or a sexual act to simple twists of fate that turn a person out of his or her accustomed path and into another way of being. Set in the countryside and towns of Lake Huron, these stories about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and homecomings both virtual and real, paint a portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be.”
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. “A superb new collection from one of our best and best-loved writers. Nine stories draw us immediately into that special place known as Alice Munro territory–a place where an unexpected twist of events or a suddenly recaptured memory can illumine the arc of an entire life.
The fate of a strong-minded housekeeper with a “frizz of reddish hair,” just entering the dangerous country of old-maidhood, is unintentionally (and deliciously) reversed by a teenaged girl’s practical joke. A college student visiting her aunt for the first time and recognizing the family furniture stumbles on a long-hidden secret and its meaning in her own life. An inveterate philanderer finds the tables turned when he puts his wife into an old-age home. A young cancer patient stunned by good news discovers a perfect bridge to her suddenly regained future. A woman recollecting an afternoon’s wild lovemaking with a stranger realizes how the memory of that encounter has both changed for her and sustained her through a lifetime.
Men and women are subtly revealed. Personal histories, both complex and simple, unfold in rich detail of circumstance and feeling. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage provides the deep pleasures and rewards that Alice Munro’s large and ever- growing audience has come to expect.” – (Random House, Inc.)
Runaway. “In Alice Munro’s superb new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.
The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In “Passion,” a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet–in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls’ school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, “Powers,” a young woman with the ability to read the future sets off a chain of events that involves her husband-to-be and a friend in a lifelong pursuit of what such a gift really means, and who really has it.
Throughout this compelling collection, Alice Munro’s understanding of the people about whom she writes makes them as vivid as our own neighbors. Here are the infinite betrayals and surprises of love–between men and women, between friends, between parents and children–that are the stuff of all our lives. It is Alice Munro’s special gift to make these stories as vivid and real as our own.” – (Random House, Inc.)
The View from Castle Rock. “In stories that are more personal than any that she’s written before, Alice Munro pieces her family’s history into gloriously imagined fiction. A young boy is taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock, where his father assures him that on a clear day he can see America, and he catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. In stories that follow, as the dream becomes a reality, two sisters-in-law experience very different kinds of passion on the long voyage to the New World; a baby is lost and magically reappears on a journey from an Illinois homestead to the Canadian border.
Other stories take place in more familiar Munro territory, the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, where the past shows through the present like the traces of a glacier on the landscape and strong emotions stir just beneath the surface of ordinary comings and goings. First love flowers under the apple tree, while a stronger emotion presents itself in the barn. A girl hired as summer help, and uneasy about her “place” in the fancy resort world she’s come to, is transformed by her employer’s perceptive parting gift. A father whose early expectations of success at fox farming have been dashed finds strange comfort in a routine night job at an iron foundry. A clever girl escapes to college and marriage.
Evocative, gripping, sexy, unexpected—these stories reflect a depth and richness of experience. The View from Castle Rock is a brilliant achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.”- (Random House, Inc.)
Too Much Happiness. “In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.
With clarity and ease, Alice Munro once again renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories that shed light on the unpredictable ways in which men and women accommodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.
(Courtesy Harford County Public Library)
“Girls and Boys”
An excerpt from the short story available on the website Open Culture
An autobiographical short story by Alice Munro. She was 11, and lived with her family on a farm. Her father was a fox farmer, who reared and killed them for the fur which was sold to the trading company. Her younger brother Laird, her mother, besides Henry her father’s helper at the farm make up the other characters.
The little girl and her brother had just witnessed an old horse killed for his meat to be fed to the foxes. She was shaken. Few days later, it was time to kill another old mare. But the horse ran away from the farm. This is what happened that afternoon….
“It was later than one o’clock when the truck came back. The tarpaulin was over the back, which meant there was meat in it. My mother had to heat dinner up all over again. Henry and my father had changed from their bloody overalls into ordinary working overalls in the barn, and they washed arms and necks and faces at the sink, and splashed water on their hair and combed it. Laird lifted his arm to show off a streak of blood. “We shot old Flora,” he said, “and cut her up in fifty pieces.”
“Well I don’t want to hear about it,” my mother said. “And don’t come to my table like that.”
My father made him go wash the blood off.
We sat down and my father said grace and Henry pasted his chewing gum on the end of his fork, the way he always did; when he took it off he would have us admire the pattern. We began to pass the bowls of steaming, overcooked vegetables. Laird looked across the table at me and said proudly distinctly, “Anyway it was her fault Flora got away.”
“What?” my father said.
“She could of shut the gate and she didn’t. She just open’ it up and Flora ran out.”
“Is that right?” m father said.
Everybody at the table was looking at me. I nodded, swallowing food with great difficulty. To my shame, tears flooded my eyes.
My father made a curt sound of disgust. “What did you do that for?”
I didn’t answer. I put down my fork and waited to be sent from the table, still not looking up.
But this did not happen. For some time nobody said anything, then Laird said matter-of-factly, “She’s crying.”
“Never mind,” my father said. He spoke with resignation, even good humor the words which absolved and dismissed me for good. “She’s only a girl,” he said
I didn’t protest that, even in my heart. Maybe it was true.
You can read the complete story “Girls and Boys” and 17 other short stories by Alice Munro, here
Some insights by the JAM edit team
Though she always focused on fiction stories but they were influenced by her native place Huron County, Ontario. She’s always been omniscient with her narration which sometimes shows that the female character is none other than herself only. Most stories are related to the small towns and villages which again relates each and every reader to them.