Hearing Oct. 10 that Canadian author Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature was an exciting moment for Laurentian University English professor Michelle Coupal.
“It's absolutely wonderful, and it's a great day for Canadian literature,” said Coupal, who specializes in Canadian and North American indigenous literature.
Munro, 82, is the first Canadian to win the award since its launch in 1901, and only the 13th woman to receive the prize in its history.
Besides this latest honour, Munro is also the recipient of the the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, and a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction.
Munro said in a media interview she always viewed her chances of winning the Nobel prize as a bit of a pipe dream.
“It just seems impossible,” she said. “A splendid thing to happen ... more than I can say.”
The author, whose husband Gerald Fremlin died in April, and is a cancer survivor, said she doesn't plan to write any more due to her age.
Munro is a “master of the short story,” usually setting her stories in her native Southwestern Ontario, Coupal said.
She said she often uses Munro's story collections in her classes, and encourages anyone not familiar with her work to pick up some of her books, especially her 2006 collection "The View from Castle Rock".
“Her style of writing short stories has been hugely influential, not just in Canada, but internationally,” Coupal said.
“From that perspective, in literary contribution to the short form, she's the perfect person to win this prize. Her achievement is remarkable because her short stories are so tight and so flawless.
“Really when you're reading it, you know you're in the hands of a huge talent. They're always filled with humour and small surprises all over the place that catch you unaware when you're reading them.”
Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, the organization responsible for handing out the Nobel Prize for Literature, said Munro is a “fantastic portrayer of human beings.”
He said no one has better deconstructed the myth of romantic love than Munro, who shows the complexity of relationships.
“There's a quotation from one of her short stories 'It was a miracle, it was a mistake. It was what she dreamed of, it was not what she wanted.'”