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Munro 'so proud' to see daughter accept Nobel

Munro 'so proud' to see daughter accept NobelCanadian author Alice Munro is photographed at her daughter Sheila's home during an interview in Victoria, B.C. Tuesday December 10, 2013. Alice's daughter Jenny received the Nobel prize in Literature on her mother's behalf during a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - Alice Munro proudly watched daughter Jenny accept the Nobel Prize on her behalf in Stockholm on Tuesday, and reflected back on a writing life that began when she was a girl growing up in rural Ontario with "unreasonable" expectations.

"I expected to be famous some day," the short story legend told The Canadian Press during an interview at the home of her daughter Sheila.

"This is because I lived in a very small town and there was nobody who liked the same things I did, like writing, and so I just thought naturally, 'Some day I'm going to write books,' and it happened."

She added: "It was only the way a very out-of-the-world person could do it, because I just had no idea about how I was going to achieve this. But I just made up stories all the time that I thought that some day I would tell them to people."

Sitting on a green couch with a cat perched nearby, Munro spoke just hours after watching a live stream of the Nobel proceedings in Stockholm. Jenny Munro made the trip to the Swedish capital because her mother was not well enough to do so.

"I was so proud of Jenny," said Munro. "I'm delighted. I think it's wonderful. It's something you would never dream of happening and so I'm still kind of dazed, but really, it's very pleasant."

Wearing a sleeveless, midnight-blue embroidered gown with her blond hair in an updo, Jenny Munro was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation during the event at the packed Stockholm Concert Hall.

She took a bow as she received the Nobel Medal, a diploma and a document confirming the C$1.2 million award from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Munro, 82, said she didn't expect the ceremony to be so extravagant.

"I think any Canadian gets rather surprised at these splendours," she said with a chuckle. "But I think it worked."

Asked if she had any regrets about not going to Stockholm, she said with a laugh: "Oh no, no, no no."

"I think it does sound like fun but it also sounds like a great deal of stamina (was) required," she added. "I'm quite glad to have my daughter do this for me, and I think she looked wonderful."

In a laudatory speech before the literature honour was handed out, Munro was celebrated as a "stunningly precise" writer who "is often able to say more in 30 pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in 300."

"Munro writes about what are usually called ordinary people, but her intelligence, compassion and astonishing power of perception enable her to give their lives a remarkable dignity — indeed redemption — since she shows how much of the extraordinary can fit into that jam-packed emptiness called The Ordinary," said Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

"The trivial and trite are intertwined with the amazing and unfathomable, but never at the cost of contradiction. If you have never before fantasized about the strangers you see on a bus, you begin doing so after having read Alice Munro."

Munro said she thought the speech was "very good," and daughter Sheila called it "really quite wonderful and eloquent."

Earlier this year, the esteemed author said she had retired from writing, but after the Nobel announcement, she hinted that she might have more to say.

However on Tuesday, Munro seemed to once again suggest she's finished with that chapter in her life.

"I have stopped writing. I think in my mind that's a very permanent thing, because I've been writing since, well, we talked about what I thought as a little girl, these preposterous notions that I had," she said. "And I began to publish before I was 20, I think. So I've been doing it for a long time and I feel quite satisfied now that I'm just going to laze around.

Munro is only the 13th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, and the first Canadian-based author to receive it. She is the 110th literature laureate.

She has previously won the Man Booker International Prize for her entire body of work, as well as two Scotiabank Giller Prizes (for 1998's "The Love of a Good Woman" and 2004's "Runaway"), three Governor General's Literary Awards (for her 1968 debut "Dance of the Happy Shades," 1978's "Who Do You Think You Are?" and 1986's "The Progress of Love"), the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the inaugural Marian Engel Award and the American National Book Critics Circle Award.

Born in 1931 in the southwestern Ontario farming community of Wingham, Munro later moved to Victoria with Jim Munro, with whom she had three children. The couple eventually divorced and Munro moved back to Ontario. She eventually remarried Gerald Fremlin, who died earlier this year.

Receiving the Nobel puts Munro in the company of great wordsmiths including George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, T.S. Eliot and Toni Morrison. Canadian-born, American-raised writer Saul Bellow won in 1976.

Asked what she was going to do to mark the Nobel festivities on Tuesday, the media-shy author said she was just taking one step at a time.

"Once we get through all these things, I'll be able to think about celebration."

But the Nobel, she agreed, seemed a fitting finale to her illustrious career.

"I think so. I don't think I need to wait around for anything else. It's quite amazing," she said.

"I just mainly feel that I'm tired and I want to live a different sort of life, a much more relaxed sort of life."

- With files from Victoria Ahearn in Toronto

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