Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro’s reputation as a literary great is already cast in stone, but now it will be forged in silver, too.
The Royal Canadian Mint released a limited edition $5 silver commemorative coin to honour the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for literature at a ceremony in Victoria on Monday.
“It’s quite an honour,” said Sheila Munro, Alice’s daughter. “We didn’t even know this kind of special coin existed.”
The coin features an inscription of a passage from The View from Castle Rock, and above it a laurel branch celebrates Ms. Munro’s distinction as the first Canadian woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature (The flip side of the coin features the Queen, not Ms. Munro.) Only 7,500 of the coins will be minted.
At Victoria’s downtown library Monday, Ms. Munro unveiled a large model of the coin.
The silver coin itself requires a magnifying glass to read the text: “And in one of these houses – I can’t remember whose – a magic doorstop, a big mother-of-pearl seashell that I recognized as a messenger from near and far,” it begins.
Wearing bold, red-rimmed glasses, Ms. Munro then read a passage for a small crowd of officials from the Mint, as well as literary representatives.
As part of the honour, the Mint will make a $10,000 donation to a charity in the author’s name.
Ms. Munro has decided the money will go to the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a group that celebrates and supports Canadian authors.
Sheila Munro said donating the money to a charity that lends a helping hand to struggling writers seemed like an appropriate gesture. “We cast around and the Writers’ Trust seemed like the right place. We know it will be used appropriately.”
In 1986, the Writers’ Trust presented Ms. Munro with a $10,000 prize in honour of her exceptional body of work, and she is now repaying the gift with one of her own.
“Nearly three decades later, Ms. Munro’s work is lauded throughout the world, and through this generous gift, the fruits of her success become an investment in future generations of literary icons,” said Mary Osborne, the group’s executive director.
Maureen Sawa, chief executive officer of the Greater Victoria Public Library, applauded the Mint’s recognition of Ms. Munro. For Ms. Sawa, the author’s legacy has been encouraging others to aim high: “It’s okay to have unreasonable expectations.”
Ms. Munro is the author of 14 books and widely recognized as the master of the contemporary short story. Many of her stories are set in her native Huron County in Southwestern Ontario. She lives in Wingham, Ont., but now spends her winters in Victoria.
Ms. Munro is the first Canadian citizen and only the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature, the world’s most prestigious literary prize for lifetime achievement. She is the winner of a bevy of other literary laurels, including the Giller (twice), the international Man Booker Prize for a body of work in 2009 and the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction (three times).
Ms. Munro’s first story collection was published in 1968. In 2013, she said she was retiring from writing.
The coin will sell for $69.95.
She is one of few authors to have a coin minted in her honour. Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, was featured on a 22-karat gold collector coin, and in 2008, the iconic book was featured on a 25-cent coloured collector coin to recognize the centennial of its publication.
With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria