Alice Munro, Nobel Laureate and Master of the Short Story, Dies at 92

Alice Munro, the revered Canadian author who started writing short stories because she did not think she had the time or the talent to master novels, then stubbornly dedicated her long career to churning out psychologically dense stories thatdazzled the literary world and earned her the Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Monday night at her home in Ontario. She was 92.

Her family announced the death, at a care home, to the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.

Ms. Munro was one of the rare breed of writer, like Katherine Anne Porter and Raymond Carver, who made their reputations in the notoriously difficult literary arena of the short story, and did so with great success. Her tales — many of them focused on women at different stages of their lives coping with complex desires — were so eagerly received and gratefully read that she attracted a whole new generation of readers.

Ms. Munro’s stories were widely considered to be without equal, a mixture of ordinary people and extraordinary themes. She portrayed small town folks, often in rural southwestern Ontario, facing situations that made the fantastic seem an everyday occurrence. Some of her characters were fleshed out so completely through generations and across continents that readers reached a level of intimacy with them that usually comes only with a full-length novel.

She achieved such compactness through exquisite craftsmanship and a degree of precision that did not waste words. Other writers declared some of her stories to be near-perfect, a heavy burden for a writer of modest personal character who had struggled to overcome a lack of self-confidence at the beginning of her career when she left the protective embrace of her quiet hometown and ventured into the competitive literary scene.

Her insecurity, however powerfully she felt it, was never noticed by fellow writers who celebrated her craftsmanship and freely lent her their highest praise.

The English novelist Edna O’Brien ranked Ms. Munro with William Faulkner and James Joyce as writers who had influenced her work. Joyce Carol Oates said her stories “have the density — moral, emotional, sometimes historical — of other writers’ novels.” And the novelist Richard Ford once made it clear that questioning Ms. Munro’s mastery over the short story would be akin to doubting the hardness of a diamond or the bouquet of a ripened peach.

Back to top button