【RT】Alice Munro: Her subject is ‘simply life itself’

The following is a repost from The Washington Post:

Alice Munro: Her subject is ‘simply life itself’

By Ben Dolnick, Friday, October 11, 12:40 AM

Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for literature: Alice Munro, “a master of the contemporary short story,” receives the prestigious award from the Royal Swedish Academy. The Canadian is the 13th female literature laureate in the 112-year history of the Nobel Prizes.

In describing Alice Munro, the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood once wrote: “She’s the kind of writer about whom it is often said — no matter how well known she becomes — that she ought to be better known.”

Atwood’s dictum is about to be put to the test: Munro, the revered 82-year-old Canadian writer, has just won the Nobel Prize.

In awarding her the prize — which comes with 8 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.2 million — the committee has made official what Munro’s legions of fans have been saying for years: She is the master of the contemporary short story.

Fans won’t be surprised to hear that Munro, famously modest, responded by asking that the attention be immediately shared. “When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world,” she said. “Now Canadian writers are read, admired and respected around the globe. I’m so thrilled to be chosen as this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature recipient. I hope it fosters further interest in all Canadian writers. I also hope that this brings further recognition to the short-story form.”

In recent years, the Nobel Prize in Literature has become an occasion, at least in North America, for sheepish shrugs and head-scratching. Herta Müller, Mo Yan, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl éz io — for many of us, the Nobels have become doubly educational: We simultaneously learn of an author’s existence and find out that we ought to have been reading him or her all along.

This year, then, came as something of a relief. Those rumored to be under consideration — Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, Munro — were all household names, more likely to be found on our bookshelves than in our crossword puzzles.

And even among those authors, none inspired quite the reverence among readers — and writers — that Munro does. Mention to a serious bibliophile that you like her and the conversation will shift to a solemn, almost embarrassingly private register, as if you’d interrupted cocktail party chatter to reveal a family secret.

This love seems always to be revealed with a certain hesitancy. This has mostly to do with the fact that Munro is explicitly a writer of short stories. Until she retired this year, her collections had been issuing from Canada as steadily as weather bulletins.

Beginning with “Dance of the Happy Shades” in 1968 and ending with “Dear Life” in 2013, her career has been a shower of stories. Thus, there is no single mountain peak — no “Beloved,” no “American Pastoral” — to which one can assuredly point and say: Read this and you’ll understand. Ask Munro fans which book to start with, and they’ll say, “Well, have you read ‘The Beggar Maid’? Oh, but what about ‘Open Secrets’? Or maybe ‘Hateship, Friendship’?” Pretty soon your suitcase is brimming with her essential works.

Munro’s publishers have tried, at various points, to cull the field. Everyman’s Library published a handsome volume of her selected stories in 2006. Vintage had done the same in 1997, and then again, more sparingly, in 2005.

Prize committees have done their parts to introduce her to the world, as well: She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998 and enough Giller prizes that she decided a few years ago to take herself out of the running.

But her books are just as much at home on the favorite paperbacks table as on the dais. She’s an author you read on the train, you read in bed, you read in happiness, you read in grief. She is, perhaps more than any writer since Chekhov (with whom she is constantly, and aptly, compared) an author whose subject is simply life itself.

In her second book, “Lives of Girls and Women” (1971), she wrote something like a credo for those who cherish this type of writing: “People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, and unfathomable — deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”

Even among writers — a notoriously discontented lot — there was none of the typical carping or ­second-guessing going on Thursday. In fact, the news of her prize set off a virtual round of toasts.

Among the revelers was the short-story writer Jim Shepard, who said: “I imagine fiction writers everywhere today are celebrating the Nobel Committee having gotten it exactly right. There’s probably no one alive who’s better at the craft of the short story, or who has done more to revolutionize the use of time in that form, the result often being a 20-page story that demonstrates the breadth and scope of a novel.”

And Elizabeth Strout, author of “Olive Kitteridge”: “Alice Munro taught me things about writing that are immeasurable; she has dared in a quiet, steady way, to go to places of deep honesty. I will always remember the first time I read her story ‘Royal Beatings.’ I thought: ‘Look what she did — she has told the truth completely.’ And reading her story ‘White Dump’ for the first time — I remember that, too. I thought, ‘Look what she does, she goes wherever she wants, and I go with her.’ The authority she brings to the page is just lovely.”

Jonathan Franzen wrote in a 2005 paean: “Reading Munro puts me in that state of quiet reflection in which I think about my own life: about the decisions I’ve made, the things I’ve done and haven’t done, the kind of person I am, the prospect of death. She is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion.”

It’s somehow incongruous to imagine, but Munro will travel to Stockholm in December, climb onto the stage, and give a gracious, fitting speech.

Literature is one of those realms in which giving out prizes can seem not merely dubious but positively obtuse. Books like Munro’s are so deeply personal and idiosyncratic that it feels like a violation to subject them to the crude business of committee meetings and PR releases; you might as well storm a butterfly den with a klieg light.

But today, and from now on, that den will be a good deal more crowded. Alice Munro is a Nobel laureate, and the only natural response is delight. And then, of course, once the euphoria of justice done has passed, to pay the tribute that is beyond the power of any prize committee, even the one in Stockholm, to issue: to read her.

Dolnick is the author of “At the Bottom of Everything.”

2011诺贝尔文学奖获得者:Tomas Transtroemer

【BBC News】

Swedish poet Transtroemer wins Nobel Literature Prize

Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer has been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Transtroemer is Scandinavia's best-known living poet

The Royal Swedish Academy named him the recipient “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”.

The 80-year-old is the 108th recipient of the prestigious prize, given last year to Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.

Presented by the Nobel Foundation, the award – only given to living writers – is worth 10 million kronor (£944,246).

A trained psychologist, Transtroemer suffered a stroke in 1990 that affected his ability to talk.


His poems – described by Publishers Weekly as “mystical, versatile and sad” – have been translated into more than 50 languages.

English translations were largely handled by American poet Robert Bly, a personal friend, and Scottish poet Robin Fulton.

Fulton, said Transtroemer would be remembered for “his very sharp imagery that translates readily, telling metaphors and a sense of surprise”.

“You don’t feel quite the same after you’ve read it as you did before,” he added.

Fulton first began working with Transtroemer in the early 1970s, and told the BBC: “Some of the Swedish I’ve learnt was learnt in the process of translating Tomas.

“You have to plunge in somewhere. When you’re in the mood it’s good until someone points out the mistakes you’ve made.”

Tipped as a potential Nobel prize winner for many years, Transtroemer is the eighth European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in the last 10 years.

He is the first Swede to receive the prize since authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared it in 1974.

Born in April 1931 in Stockholm, Transtroemer graduated in psychology in 1956 and later worked in an institution for juvenile offenders.

His first collection of poetry, Seventeen Poems, was published when he was 23.

In 1966 he received the Bellman prize, one of many accolades he has won over his long career.

In 2003 one of his poems was read at the memorial service of Anna Lindh, the murdered Swedish foreign minister.

【New York Times】

Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer at his home in Stockholm on Thursday after receiving the news that he won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet whose sometimes bleak but graceful work explores themes of isolation, emotion and identity while remaining rooted in the commonplace, won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Transtromer, saying that “through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.”

The assembled journalists cheered upon hearing that Mr. Transtromer, who was born in Stockholm, had won the prize.

Mr. Transtromer, 80, has written more than 15 collections of poetry, many of which have been translated into English and 60 other languages.

Critics have praised Mr. Transtromer’s poems for their accessibility, even in translation, noting his elegant descriptions of long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature.

“So much poetry, not only in this country but everywhere, is small and personal and it doesn’t look outward, it looks inward,” said Daniel Halpern, the president and publisher of Ecco, the imprint of HarperCollins that has published English translations of Mr. Transtromer’s work. “But there are some poets who write true international poetry. It’s the sensibility that runs though his poems that is so seductive. He is such a curious and open and intelligent writer.”

Neil Astley, the editor of Bloodaxe Books in Britain, called Mr. Transtromer “a metaphysical visionary poet.”

“He’s worked for much of his life as a psychologist, and the work is characterized by very strong psychological insight into humanity,” Mr. Astley said.

Mr. Transtromer was born in Stockholm in 1931. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a journalist. He studied literature, history, religion and psychology at Stockholm University, graduating in 1956, and worked as a psychologist at a youth correctional facility.

In 1990, Mr. Transtromer suffered a stroke that left him mostly unable to speak, but he eventually began to write again.

On Thursday afternoon, the stairwell in Mr. Transtromer’s apartment building filled with journalists from all over the world seeking reaction, the Swedish news media reported.

Visibly overwhelmed, Mr. Transtromer finally appeared, accompanied by his wife, Monica. Speaking on his behalf, she said her husband was most happy that the prize was awarded for poetry. “That you happened to receive it is a great joy and happy surprise, but the fact the prize went to poetry felt very good,” she said, addressing him at a gathering that quickly moved into the vestibule of their home in Stockholm.

There was also a celebration among Swedes, many of whom have read Mr. Transtromer since his first book of poems, “17 Poems,” placed him on Sweden’s literary map when he was just 23.

“To be quite honest it was a relief because people have been hoping for this for a long time,” said Ola Larsmo, a novelist and the president of the Swedish Pen association. “Some thought the train might have left the station already because he is old and not quite well. It felt great that he was confirmed in this role of national and international poet.”

John Freeman, the editor of the literary magazine Granta, said: “He is to Sweden what Robert Frost was to America. The national character, if you can say one exists, and the landscape of Sweden are very much reflected in his work. It’s easy because of that to overlook the abiding strangeness and mysteriousness of his poems.”

But in the United States, Mr. Transtromer is a virtual unknown, even to many readers of poetry, despite the fact that he has been published in English by several widely known publishers.

Mr. Halpern said that “Selected Poems,” originally published by Ecco in 2000, would be rereleased within days. On Thursday morning, print copies of his books were already backordered on online retailer sites, and electronic versions were difficult to find. New Directions, an independent publisher, released “The Great Enigma,” a poetry collection, in 2006; Graywolf Press, a publisher based in Minneapolis, released “The Half-Finished Heaven” in 2001; and in 2000, Ecco, part of HarperCollins, released “Selected Poems.”

Jeff Seroy, a spokesman for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, part of Macmillan, said Thursday that the imprint had acquired a volume of Mr. Transtromer’s work, translated by Robin Robertson, called “The Deleted World,” originally published in 2006. Mr. Seroy said the book would be released by year’s end.

Much of Mr. Transtromer’s work, including “The Half-Finished Heaven,” was translated by his close friend and fellow poet Robert Bly. Mr. Bly has been named as one of the central people who introduced Mr. Transtromer to a small but devoted group of American readers.

The selection of a European writer for the literature Nobel — the eighth in a decade — renewed criticisms that the prize is too Eurocentric. The last American writer to win a Nobel was Toni Morrison in 1993. Philip Roth has been a perennial favorite but has not been selected.

The committee noted after the announcement on Thursday that it had been many years since a Swede had won. It last happened in 1974 when Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared the prize.

Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the academy, said this week that the literature jury had increased the number of “scouts” it employed to scour for books in non-European languages.

And once again, the jury proved its inscrutability. In previous years, the choice of relatively unknown writers like Herta Müller of Germany has surprised Nobel watchers; in other years, winners like Harold Pinter or Orhan Pamuk have raised questions about whether the Nobel committee is overly influenced by politics.

While Mr. Transtromer has been a longtime favorite to win the Nobel, he has also won other prizes, including the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Bonnier Award for Poetry, the Petrarch Prize in Germany and the Bellman Prize.

The Nobel Prize comes with an honorarium of nearly $1.5 million.

Christina Anderson contributed reporting from Stockholm.