Celebrated Canadian short story writer Alice Munro is adding another laurel to her extensive collection of awards after winning the third Man Booker International Prize for fiction.
"I am very pleased - and absolutely amazed and thrilled," Ms. Munro, 77, said last night in a statement delivered by her long-time editor and publisher Douglas Gibson. "To be among such candidates for the prize was a great honour in itself. It's especially great at my time of life to have this recognition of a lifetime's work."
Ms. Munro, who lives in Clinton, Ont., and Comox, B.C., was chosen from a field of 14 writers, including Peter Carey, E.L. Doctorow, Mario Vargas Llosa, V.S. Naipaul and Joyce Carol Oates. The £60,000 (just over $100,000) prize, awarded biannually, is a spin-off of the Man Booker Prize, the well-known annual award given to a writer within the British Commonwealth.
Unlike the original prize, now in its 41st year, which recognizes a single work of fiction, the International Prize is open to writers from around the world and is awarded for an entire body of work. The inaugural International Prize was awarded to Albanian writer Ismail Kadare in 2005. Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe won it in 2007.
Ms. Munro, who was shortlisted for the original Booker Prize in 1980 for her collection The Beggar Maid , has won the Governor-General's Award for fiction three times, the Giller Prize twice, the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award, and the W.H. Smith Literary Award in Britain. She is a favourite of editors at The New Yorker, which has published 48 of her short stories. Her books, which include The Love of a Good Woman and Runaway , are praised for their masterful narrative voice and exquisite observations of life's tiny epiphanies.
The short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain was adapted by writer-director Sarah Polley into the award-winning art house hit Away From Her .
Last night, Mr. Gibson, who has worked with Ms. Munro since publishing her 1978 collection Who Do You Think You Are? , noted that he had lunch with the author less than two weeks ago. "She knew at that point [about te award,]but had promised to keep it a secret - even from me!"
"I'm delighted," he continued. "It's further proof, if proof was needed, that Canadian writers are simply among the best in the world." Noting the implied modesty of that statement, he said, "Canadians are culturally averse to anyone seeming too big for our boots, so we need to be reminded by objective evidence that our people really are the best."
The Man Booker International Prize's three-person judging panel, chaired by author Jane Smiley, saw no reason for modesty, praising the winner in a statement: "Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels. To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before."
Ms. Munro has scores of admirers among contemporary writers, including Cynthia Ozick, who called her "our Chekhov," and Jonathan Franzen ( The Corrections ), who wrote in the New York Times that, she "has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America."
Three years ago, Ms. Munro suggested in an interview that she might be putting down her pen, but Mr. Gibson noted last night that he will bring out a new collection this August entitled Too Much Happiness . "That perhaps sums up my feelings about the news of this award," he said.