In a video that speaks to the quiet dignity of her writing, Alice Munro accepted her Nobel Prize for Literature with a half-hour interview that went online on the Nobel Prize website on Saturday. The 82-year-old Munro, widely considered to be one of the greatest living masters of the short story form, decided in October that she was "too frail" to go to Norway to accept her award in person, so the conversation serves as the traditional Nobel Lecture.
In the interview, she spoke about her inspirations — "The Little Mermaid" plays a role — her techniques, the value of hard work, and her initial beginnings as a housewife in a sleepy Canadian community.
Asked about how important it was that her stories were written from the perspective of a woman, she replied:
When I was a young girl, I had no feeling of inferiority at all, being a woman. This may have been because I lived in a part of Ontario where ... women did most of the reading. Women did most of the telling of stories. The men were outside doing important things and they didn't go in for stories. So I felt quite at home.
As she has in her past media appearances, she is the model of gentle humility, looking for all the world like a woman genuinely surprised that people even read her at all.
Stories are so important in the world, and I want to make up some of these stories. I want to keep on doing this. In a way, it didn't have anything to do with other people. I didn't need to tell anybody, and it wasn't until much later that I realized that the stories, that it would be interesting if one got to a larger audience.
She also offered thoughts on the process of editing yourself.
I think probably (the part that's hardest), it's where you go over the story and realize how bad it is. Y'know: The first part, excitement. The second part, pretty good. And then you pick it up in the morning, and you think, 'what nonsense.' But then is when you really get to work on it. For me, it always seemed worthy to do. It was always my fault it wasn't better. It wasn't the story's fault.
The most galling part of the interview, for Munro fans? She admitted that when she was young, she threw all her stories away... and still does, from time to time. Take note, then: there's a real treasure trove of unpublished Munro stories if someone has old garbage bags from Wingham, Ontario.
The Nobel Lectures in Physics, Economic Sciences and Chemistry will be webcast on Sunday morning Central European Time, while the Nobel Peace Prize lecture will take place on Tuesday.