Dissident writer Alice Munro awarded Nobel for fiction critical of Canadian regime

October 10, 2013

Canadian author Alice Munro (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images)

Canadian short story writer Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for literature. The coverage will likely focus on her work and her life as a writer. But here, to borrow a very good idea from Slate's wonderful foreign policy writer Joshua Keating, is a satirical take on the story you might be reading if Munro were from an authoritarian, developing country such as China or Russia, as Nobel literature winners often are. Just to reiterate: It's satire.

GENEVA – Dissident writer Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday morning for her fiction critical of the Canadian regime.

While not overtly political, Munro is known for stories that capture the struggles of regular Canadians. Though tolerated by the government, her work is seen as a challenge to the country's rulers. She first gained international acclaim with her 1968 collection "Dance of the Happy Shades," which offered a tender portrait of life under the brutal reign of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Munro has long been celebrated by Western writers. American novelist Cynthia Ozick once described her as "our Chekhov," comparing her to the Russian playwright known for challenging Russia's restrictive Tsar-era social codes.

State media in Canada reacted positively to the news, calling it a great victory for the Canadian nation and the state ideology. Still, Munro is expected to come under intense pressure from Canadian exile communities, who are already calling on the author to use this moment to focus greater attention on the lack of political freedoms in Canada.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International are urging Ottawa to allow Munro permission to travel abroad to accept the prize in December. Though Canadian Nobel winners have been permitted to fly to Oslo to accept the prize in years past, the political nature of Munro's work and recent Canadian tensions with the European Union have called this into question.

In the meantime, some of Munro's admirers in the West have expressed hope that the author's works may finally be fully translated into English.

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Max Fisher · October 9, 2013