Culture

Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize in literature

Canada’s ‘master of contemporary short stories’ is the 13th woman to earn the award

Alice Munro in 2009
Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

Canadian author Alice Munro, who the Nobel Committee called a "master of contemporary short stories," won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday.

Munro, 82, is the 13th woman to snag one of the 106 Nobel Prizes awarded since 1901. Her story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" was adapted into Academy Award-nominated film "Away from Her."

She's the first Canadian writer to receive the prestigious $1.2 million award since Saul Bellow, who won in 1976 and left for the U.S. as a boy.

Munro's writing has brought her numerous awards. She won a National Book Critics Circle prize for "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage," and is a three-time winner of the Governor General's prize, Canada's highest literary honor.

Often compared to Anton Chekhov, the 82-year-old writer has attained near-canonical status as a thorough, but forgiving, documenter of the human spirit.

Munro is known for focusing her oeuvre on life in small-town Canada.

"She almost exclusively writes about Southwestern Ontario," Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said in a live broadcast interview on the Nobel Prizesite, "a very flat, rural area with broad rivers and small towns. That's her milieu."

Munro has said that she will retire from writing soon, but it is unclear if the prize will change her plans.

Last year, Chinese author Mo Yan, author of the novel "Red Sorghum Clan," about the Japanese invasion of China during World War II, won the prize for his stories, "where hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."

It has been a big week for North Americans in Stockholm. U.S. nationals Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel won the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry for laying the foundation for computer models used to understand and predict chemical processes, and, earlier this week, three Americans won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries about how key substances are moved around within cells. The physics award went to British and Belgian scientists whose theories help explain how matter formed after the Big Bang.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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