Short story giant Alice Munro dies, aged 92

Nobel Prize winner and short story giant Alice Munro dies, aged 92


Legendary short story writer Alice Munro has died in a nursing home in Port Hope, Ontario, aged 92. A spokesperson for her publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, confirmed her death on Monday night. Since 2009, Munro’s health had declined, having undergone coronary bypass surgery and treatment for cancer.

The Canadian Nobel prize winner had a stellar writing career for more than six decades, chronicling the lives of ordinary Canadians living in suburban and rural Canada. 

In a statement, Kristin Cochrane, the CEO of Penguin Random House Canada, described Munro as “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.” 

Once dubbed “the Canadian Chekhov” by American writer Cynthia Ozick, Munro amassed a string of international awards throughout her career, publishing fourteen short story collections and winning the Man Booker International prize in 2009.

In 2013, she received the Nobel prize in literature, becoming the first Canadian and only the 13th woman to be awarded the prize, with judges calling her a “master of the contemporary short story.” She was unable to travel to Sweden for the ceremony due to poor health.

Fellow Canadian writer Margaret Atwood once called her “among the major writers of English fiction of our time.”

“Few writers have explored such processes more thoroughly, and more ruthlessly” Atwood wrote in 2008. “Hands, chairs, glances – all are part of an intricate inner map strewn with barbed wire and booby traps, and secret paths through the shrubbery.”

In the past days, tributes have come in from across the book world, mourning the loss of the literary giant. 

American author Curtis Sittenfeld called Munro “my favourite writer since I first read her work when I was 16” and added “Although we never met, I’m so deeply grateful to her”. Sittenfeld, author of best-selling and acclaimed titles including “Rodham” and “Romantic Comedy”, posted screenshots of a 2017 article where she praised Munro: “I truly think my life has been better because of the stories she’s written.” 

Canadian short story writer and novelist Madeleine Thien said her “heart breaks” at the news of Munro’s death. 

Sharing her grief on X, Thien posted a passage from one of Munro’s short stories and wrote: “Thank you for everything, everything, everything.”

American author Rumaan Alam, who wrote the book “Leave the World Behind”, posted: “the truth is that alice munro is immortal, what an absolute genius”. 

Canadian novelist Heather O’Neill shared a photo of herself posing with several Munro titles, writing: “Devastated to her about Alice Munro’s passing. Last month I reread all of Alice Munro’s books. I felt the need to be close to her. Every time I read her is a new experience. Every time changes me. She will live forever.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared a photo of himself with Munro on X, saying, “The world has lost one of its greatest storytellers. Alice Munro was captivated with everyday life in small-town Canada. Her many, many readers are, too. She will be dearly missed.”

Munro Books in Victoria, a shop Munro opened in 1963 with her first husband James, expressed their admiration for the writer in a statement published on Tuesday. 

“Despite the lofty honours bestowed upon her, she never stopped championing the ordinary lives of girls and women—or the undersung form of the short story, whose depths she plumbed again and again to astonishing effect,” the statement read. “No matter how many writers we continue to champion in her name, Alice will always hold a special place on our shelves and in our hearts.”

Munro was born Alice Ann Laidlaw on July 10, 1931 in Wingham, Ontario. She was the first of three children. As a teenager, she won a two-year scholarship to the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, where she majored in journalism. 

In 1951, age 20, she married her first husband, James Munro, whom she’d open a bookstore with 12 years into their marriage. 

During her first marriage, Munro had four children — the third died at birth. As a young mother, she began to write short stories, later telling reporters she was time-restricted due to her parenting demands. 

Her short stories first appeared in the Tamarack Review, the Montrealer, and The Canadian Forum. In 1968, she published her first collection of stories, “Dance of the Happy Shades” which won the Governor General’s Literary Award.

In the next decade, Munro divorced, re-married, and began to be published in The New Yorker in 1977.

In 1980, her collection, “Do You Think You Are?” was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. She went onto winthe Giller prize twice — once in 1998 for “The Love of a Good Woman” and again in 2004 for “Runaway”.

She would go on to be published in prestigious magazines including the Paris Review and the Atlantic Monthly.

Her last collection, “Dear Life” was published in 2012, and included four autobiographical short stories which she called “the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life”.


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