Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Here is the story on BBC.

This was a surprising award; with the possible exception of Isaac Bashevis Singer, this is the first time someone who writes primarily short stories has won the Nobel Prize for literature. Even Singer is debatable; his bibliography lists around 20 novels, its just that a lot of people (like me) have said his short stories are his best work.

But Alice Munro (艾莉絲‧孟若) has written almost nothing but short stories. Her one novel, The Lives of Girls and Women, is basically seven or eight short stories held together by a common narrator and location, and is by no means her most popular or critically acclaimed work. In any case, the Nobel committee’s award specifically cites her as “master of the contemporary short story”, and that’s a description that has never been used before for a Nobel literature laureate.

I predict that this will be a very popular choice, simply because Munro is a very popular writer. She’s my favorite living short story writer, for sure. Unfortunately, the literature translation market being what it is in Taiwan (and China), she is very poorly represented in Chinese at the moment; short story collections are hardly ever translated because they sell so poorly. This is true in English, as Munro has often ruefully observered, and triply true in Taiwan and China. To my knowledge, the only one of Munro’s books available in Chinese is Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, translated as Ganqing youxi 感情遊戲 by Chang Jang 張讓, and published by China Times Publishing in 2003. Oh, there is also a partial translation of “The Lives of Girls and Women” by Lan Ya-chieh (藍雅婕), done as part of her MA thesis on Munro (Chi Nan University Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literature, 2004); this is currently the only thesis that has been done on Munro in Taiwan.

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