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May 28, 2024
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Alice Munro, Nobel Laureate and Master of the Short Story, Dies at 92

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Her stories were widely considered to be without equal, a mixture of ordinary people and extraordinary themes.

Alice Munro near her home in rural Ontario, Canada, in 2013. “With Alice it’s like a shorthand,” the writer Richard Ford said. “You’ll just mention her, and everybody just kind of generally nods that she’s just sort of as good as it gets.”Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times

Alice Munro, the revered Canadian author who started writing short stories because she did not think she had the time or the talent to master novels, then stubbornly dedicated her long career to churning out psychologically dense stories that dazzled the literary world and earned her the Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Monday night in Port Hope, Ontario, east of Toronto. She was 92.

A spokesman for her publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, confirmed the death, at a nursing home. Ms. Munro’s health had declined since at least 2009, when she said she’d had heart bypass surgery and had been treated for cancer, though she continued to write.

Ms. Munro was a member of the rare breed of writer, like Katherine Anne Porter and Raymond Carver, who made their reputations in the notoriously difficult literary arena of the short story, and did so with great success. Her tales — many of them focused on women at different stages of their lives coping with complex desires — were so eagerly received and gratefully read that she attracted a whole new generation of readers.

Ms. Munro’s stories were widely considered to be without equal, a mixture of ordinary people and extraordinary themes. She portrayed small-town folks, often in rural southwestern Ontario, facing situations that made the fantastic seem an everyday occurrence. Some of her characters were fleshed out so completely through generations and across continents that readers reached a level of intimacy with them that usually comes only with a full-length novel.

She achieved such compactness through exquisite craftsmanship and a degree of precision that did not waste words. Other writers declared some of her stories to be near-perfect — a heavy burden for a writer of modest personal character who had struggled to overcome a lack of self-confidence at the beginning of her career, when she left the protective embrace of her quiet hometown and ventured into the competitive literary scene.

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Alice Munro in an undated photo. Joyce Carol Oates said Munro’s stories “have the density — moral, emotional, sometimes historical — of other writers’ novels.” Credit…Derek Shapman, via European Pressphoto Agency

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