On today’s date in 1931, Canadian author and Nobel Prize laureate Alice Munro was born in Wingham, Ont.
“Munro spent her early years within the small-town culture of western Ontario,” according to an article published by the Canadian Encyclopedia, which added Munro began writing as a teenager and published her first story, The Dimensions of a Shadow, at the age of 19. Written over a 15-year span, her first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, was published when she was 37 years old.
In many of her short stories, Munro transports readers to the small Ontario towns she has known throughout her life—seemingly Canadian settings contrasted by conflicts and female characters with a universal appeal. Told in a lyrical yet precise prose style, Munro’s coming-of-age stories “focus on human relationships as seen through the lens of daily life, and they manage the epic complexity of a novel in a just few short pages,” according to a 2017 story by CBC News.
“Little wonder she’s been called ‘the Canadian Chekhov.'”
After decades of writing and with her work translated into 20 languages, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013 at the age of 82.
She “revolutionized the architecture of short stories” – especially with her tendency to move forward and backward in time – and “brought a modesty and subtle wit to her work that admirers often traced to her background growing up in rural Canada,” wrote Julie Bosman for The New York Times shortly after Munro received the Nobel honour.
In addition to the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as “master of the contemporary short story,” Munro is the recipient of many literary accolades, including the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work. She is also a three-time recipient of the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction and was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s 1996 Marian Engel Award and 2004 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for Runaway.
She was the first Canadian woman – and only the 13th woman in the world – to take home the Nobel Prize in Literature since it was launched in 1901.
2014 MUNRO COIN
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a coin celebrating Munro’s Nobel Prize in Literature.
To honour her achievement and promote Canada’s writing community, the Mint also donated $10,000 to the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a charitable organization providing financial support to Canadian writers.
Designed by Canadian artist Laurie McGaw, the reverse of the $5 proof silver coin features an ethereal female figure emerging from a pen as a representation of one of the many central characters from Munro’s beloved short stories. A hand is shown resting against an open book, whose pages are inscribed with a passage from Munro’s The View from Castle Rock, which reads: “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, because I could hold it to my ear – when nobody was there to stop me – and discover the tremendous pounding of my own blood, and of the sea.”
A laurel branch also celebrates Munro’s distinction as the first Canadian woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.
The coin has a weight of 23.17 grams, a diameter of 36.07 millimetres and a mintage of 7,500.