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Nobel Prize gala honours Alice Munro, literature winner

12/10/2013 05:00 EST | Updated 02/08/2014 05:59 EST
The spotlight shines on Canadian short story maven Alice Munro, who though absent from the 2013 Nobel Prize reception alongside this year's laureates in Stockholm Tuesday, is nonetheless being celebrated worldwide.

The announcement of each year's Nobel winners typically spark some debate or discussion, but the choice of Munro in October had virtually no detractors, according to Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which chooses the Nobel laureates.

"The remarkable thing with this prize, and it stands out, is the popularity," he told The Canadian Press in a recent interview from Stockholm.

"But it's obviously about Alice Munro and her writing — it's, in many ways, impeccable. From my 10 years of experience of handing out the Nobel Prize here in Stockholm, I've never seen a prize so popular."

CanLit icon Munro, whom the Swedish Academy dubbed "the master of the contemporary short story," reigns atop a list of the most popular literature laureates on the Nobel website, ranking higher than past winners such as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Following her win, sales of her books also spiked significantly at home and abroad. For instance, sales of Munro titles increased 4,424 per cent in Canada after her win, while they increased 4,214 per cent in Italy, 2,625 per cent in Ireland and 1,890 per cent in Spain (figures released by BookNet Canada).  

Daughter to accept honour in Stockholm

A week after Munro was announced as this year's literature winner, Nobel officials confirmed that the reclusive Canadian writer would not attend the Nobel gala in Sweden due to poor health.

Her daughter, Jenny Munro, and longtime editor Douglas Gibson are among those who have travelled to Stockholm in her stead.

As part of the celebrations, Nobel organizers unveiled an extended interview this weekend which they had previously filmed with Munro in Canada.

In the wide-ranging chat, the Ontario-born author (who also lives with family in B.C.) discusses her early inspirations, how her background and her community influenced her as well as writing from a female perspective.

"I want my stories to move people. I don't care if they are men or women or children. I want my stories to be something about life that causes people to say — not "Oh, isn't that the truth," — but to feel some kind of reward from the writing. And that doesn't mean that it has to be a happy ending or anything, but just that everything the story tells moves the reader in such a way that you feel you are a different person when you finish," Munro said.

"I want people to find not so much inspiration as great enjoyment. That's what I want: I want people to enjoy my books, to think of them as related to their own lives in ways."

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