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Alice Munro ‘too frail’ to attend Nobel Prize ceremony

Writer Alice Munro, in Victoria on Friday, one day after being named this year’s Nobel laureate.

<240>John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

With a Nobel Prize in literature under her belt and a new crop of readers discovering her work, Alice Munro has decided to forgo the prestigious award ceremonies in December and remain in Victoria.

"She is just too frail," her former husband, Jim Munro, said on Friday in a telephone interview from Munro's Books, the Victoria bookstore the couple founded in the 1960s. "She has won pretty well every award, including the [Man Booker] – so she is not overwhelmed. But she is just tired because of all the publicity."

When Ms. Munro, 82, was named the Nobel laureate in Literature on Oct. 10, Canadians welcomed the news with affectionate tributes and accolades for a writer whose short stories have garnered acclaim for decades. The attention also brought a wave of phone calls and media requests.

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The award was especially poignant as it came in a year when Ms. Munro had announced her retirement.

Ms. Munro has no specific health condition that would prevent her from attending the awards, but has decided she is not up to the demands of a long trip, a banquet and other activities, her daughter, Sheila Munro, confirmed.

"Most people over 80 are not doing these types of things," said Sheila Munro, a writer who lives in Victoria and with whom her mother – whose long-time home is in Ontario – intends to spend the winter.

"She needs a lot of rest ... my priority for her is her health and not getting over-exhausted, no matter how wonderful it would be to be there," Sheila Munro said.

Ms. Munro's other daughter, Jenny, who lives in Port Hope, Ont., is expected to attend the awards on Ms. Munro's behalf, along with her publisher, Douglas Gibson, and others in Stockholm, Sweden, on Dec. 10.

The Nobel has turned the spotlight on Ms. Munro and generated brisk sales of her 14 volumes of short stories.

When Munro's Books opened on the day the award winners were announced, reporters were camped out at the front door and at the Royal Scot Hotel in Victoria, where Ms. Munro was staying.

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On hearing the news of her win on the radio, the store manager phoned to order more copies of her books for delivery as soon as possible and has since had to restock.

Hundreds of her books have been sold, a welcome boost to independent booksellers such as Munro's.

"Independent booksellers have always promoted her work," Mr. Munro said on Friday. "Her first book – Dance of the Happy Shades – booksellers promoted that book."

Earlier this year, Ms. Munro said her most recent book, Dear Life, would be her last, but has recently mused about writing more.

The day after she won the Nobel, Ms. Munro told The Globe and Mail the award was unexpected and wonderful.

"It means that you have a lot of appreciation out there," she said. "To a writer, I think this is always a bit of a surprise. And it's great."

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Asked if she had anything to say to her fans, she responded, "just keep reading."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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