Alice Ann Munro (née Laidlaw; born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian author writing in English. The recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature and the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, she is also a three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction.
The focus of Munro’s fiction is her native southwestern Ontario. Her “accessible, moving stories” explore human complexities in a seemingly effortless style. Munro’s writing has established her as “one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction,” or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, “our Chekhov.” In 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as “master of the modern short story”.
Munro was born in Wingham, Ontario. Her father, Robert Eric Laidlaw, was a fox and mink farmer, and her mother, Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney), was a schoolteacher. Munro began writing as a teenager, publishing her first story, “The Dimensions of a Shadow,” in 1950 while a student at the University of Western Ontario. During this period she worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker, and a library clerk. In 1951, she left the university, where she had been majoring in English since 1949, to marry fellow student James Munro. In 1963 the couple moved to Victoria where they opened Munro’s Books which still operates.
Munro’s highly acclaimed first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), won the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary prize. That success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories sometimes erroneously described as a novel. In 1978, Munro’s collection of interlinked stories Who Do You Think You Are? was published (titled The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose in the United States). This book earned Munro a second Governor General’s Literary Award. From 1979 to 1982, she toured Australia, China and Scandinavia. In 1980 Munro held the position of Writer-in-Residence at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland. Through the 1980s and 1990s, she published a short-story collection about once every four years.
Alice Munro’s stories have appeared frequently in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review. In interviews to promote her 2006 collection The View from Castle Rock, Munro suggested that she might not publish any further collections. She has since recanted and published further work. Her collection, Too Much Happiness, was published in August 2009. Her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” was adapted for the screen and directed by Sarah Polley as the film Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. It debuted at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Polley’s adaptation was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to No Country for Old Men.
At a Toronto appearance in October 2009, Munro indicated that she received treatment for cancer and a heart condition, the latter requiring bypass surgery. At that time, she indicated that her next work would involve a theme of sexual ambivalence.
On 10 October 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, being cited as “master of the contemporary short story”. Munro is the first Canadian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the 13th woman laureate in its history.
Munro married James Munro in 1951. Their daughters Sheila, Catherine, and Jenny were born in 1953, 1955, and 1957 respectively; Catherine died 15 hours after birth.
In 1963, the Munros moved to Victoria where they opened Munro’s Books, a popular bookstore still in business. In 1966, their daughter Andrea was born. Alice and James Munro were divorced in 1972.
She returned to Ontario to become Writer-in-Residence at the University of Western Ontario, and in 1976 received an honorary LL.D. from the institution. In 1976 she married Gerald Fremlin, a geographer. The couple moved to a farm outside Clinton, Ontario, and later to a house in Clinton, where Fremlin died in April 2013.
In 2002, her daughter Sheila Munro published a childhood memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up With Alice Munro.