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Alice Munro
Canadian author
Alternative title: Alice Ann Laidlaw

Written by Steven R. Serafin

Last Updated4-14-2016

Alice Munro, original name Alice Ann Laidlaw (born July 10, 1931,
Wingham,Ontario, Canada) Canadian short-story writer who gained
international recognition with her exquisitely drawn narratives. The Swedish
Academydubbed her a “master of the contemporary short story” when it
awarded her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. Munro’s work was noted for
its precise imagery and narrative style, which is at once lyrical, compelling,
economical, and intense, revealing the depth and complexities in the emotional
lives of everyday people.
Munro was raised on what she called “this collapsing enterprise of
a fox and mink farm, just beyond the most disreputable part of town.” Her
mother, a teacher, played a significant role in her life, as did her great-aunt and
her grandmother. She attended the University of Western Ontario but left after
two years of studying English and journalism. At age 20, in 1951, she married
her first husband, James Munro, and moved to Vancouver. She moved again in
1963 to Victoria, where the couple started a bookstore and together raised three
daughters. After her first marriage ended in 1972, she returned to Ontario and
settled in Clinton, near her childhood home, where she lived with her second
husband (married 1976).
Munro had begun writing stories as a teenager, and she persevered in her
attempt to establish herself as a writer despite years of rejection from publishers
and the limitations imposed on her career by the responsibilities of marriage
and motherhood. Her first collection of stories was published as Dance of the
Happy Shades (1968). It is one of three of her collections—the other two
being Who Do You Think You Are?(1978; also published as The Beggar Maid:
Stories of Flo and Rose) and The Progress of Love (1986)—awarded the
annual Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction. Lives of Girls and
Women (1971) was conceived as a novel but developed into a series of
interrelated coming-of-age stories. Like much of her fiction, the tales capture the
social and cultural milieu of her native southwestern Ontario. Munro embraced
the mystery, intimacy, and tension of the ordinary lives of both men and women,
rooted in the uncharted and ambivalent landscape of what affectionately came
to be known as “Munro country.”
Her later volumes include Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974), The
Moons of Jupiter (1982),Friend of My Youth (1990), A Wilderness
Station (1994), and The Love of a Good Woman (1998). The latter volume
received both Canada’s esteemed Giller Prize (later the Scotiabank Giller Prize)
and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S. Her book Open
Secrets (1994) contains stories that range in setting from the semicivilized hills
of southern Ontario to the mountains of Albania. In Runaway (2004) Munro
explores the depths of ordinary lives through the use of temporal shifts and
realistically rendered reminiscences. The View from Castle Rock (2007)
combines history, family memoir, and fiction into narratives of questionable
inquiries and obscure replies. In 2009 Munro won the Man Booker International
Prize; that same year she published the short-story collection Too Much
Happiness.
Like much of her oeuvre, the stories in Dear Life (2012) were unified by
examinations of sex, love, and death. Four of the stories in the collection were
explicitly framed as fictionalized autobiography meant to encapsulate the aging
Munro’s feelings about her life. She told an interviewer that Dear Life, her 14th
collection, would be her last. She issued several compilations of previously
published material, includingSelected Stories (1996) and Family Furnishings:
Selected Stories, 1995–2014 (2014).
Munro’s short story about the domestic erosions of Alzheimer’s disease, “The
Bear Came over the Mountain,” originally published in Hateship, Friendship,
Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001), was made into the critically acclaimed
film Away from Her (2006), directed by Sarah Polley and starring Julie
Christieand Michael Murphy.
With the exception of Canadian-born American author Saul Bellow (who won
the prize in 1976), Munro was the first Canadian—as well as the 13th woman—
to be named the Nobel literature laureate.
Steven R. SerafinThe Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica

Quick Facts
Alice MunroCanadian author

Also known as

 Alice Ann Laidlaw


Born

July 10, 1931


Wingham, Canada

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