Canadian High Commission hosts lecture in tribute to Alice Munro

Alice Munro

… for her 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature

IN 2013 the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Alice Munro for her mastery of the contemporary short story, making her the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the prestigious award.

And last evening the Canadian High Commission hosted a lecture presented by Professor Victor Ramraj entitled “Fantastic Portrayer of Human Being: Alice Munro.”

On 10 October 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and cited as a “master of the contemporary short story.”

While thanking the High Commission for hosting the lecture, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony noted that he was struck by the way Munro got into writing. He recalled viewing an interview Munro did when she received her Nobel Prize award, where she noted that she first read the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen but was not pleased with the ending. Thereafter she concluded that the story could have many happier endings and this is what inspired her to start writing.

Additionally, coming from a small town also inspired her writing skills and Minister Anthony also recognised her humble nature.

In his presentation, Minister Anthony acknowledged the strong relations Guyana has had with Canada in the area of health care, especially in the area of neo-natal care at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

While this project started out in a small scale, it has expanded to the other hospitals in Guyana and these efforts have resulted in a significant reduction of child/infant mortality. Another area where help has been extended is in cardiac echography which allows for the early diagnosis of cardiac ailments in children.


Minister Anthony noted that while much has been achieved in health care, there can also be a relationship developed to promote literature and other areas of culture.

Canadian High Commissioner, Dr. Nicole Giles noted that over 1 million Canadians have roots in the Americas and in this regard cultural links are enhanced beyond Canada’s borders. In 2007, the Americas were made a foreign policy priority with a vision for a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere.

She highlighted that literature is a distinctive vehicle for sharing a country’s ideas and experiences in that it takes mutual understanding to a level of intimacy that is rare.

Dr. Giles lauded Munro for her work which touches on the wellbeing of women and girls. She added that the government of Canada is keen on protecting the rights of women and the girl child.

Munro’s work has been described as having revolutionized the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time. Her stories have been said to “embed more than announce, reveal more than parade.”

The Professor explained that Munro’s fiction is most often set in her native Huron County in southwestern Ontario, and her stories explore human complexities in an uncomplicated prose style. Munro’s writing has established her as “one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction,” or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, “our Chekhov.”

Munro is the recipient of many literary accolades, including the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as “master of the contemporary short story”, 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 and was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s 1996 Marian Engel Award, as well as the 2004 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for Runaway.

Her highly acclaimed first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), won the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary prize. Some of her most notable work includes Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories; Who Do You Think You Are? (1978); and in 2006, Munro’s story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, was adapted for the screen and directed by Sarah Polley as Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.

Since the 1980s, Munro has published a short-story collection at least once every four years, most recently in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2012. First versions of Munro’s stories have appeared in journals such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Harper’s Magazine, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review. Her collections have been translated into thirteen languages.

(By Asif Hakim)