Tales of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro to thank and celebrate

A plot of allusions can sustain a story better than an argument. A simple prose, modest to the point of invisibility, is often more effective than a mannered one, and an epiphany justifies an open story by its authenticity alone. That’s what the Canadian writer says Alice munro throughout his work, celebrated in 2013 with the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since then, his books have received numerous translations and now his third volume of storys, Something that I wanted to tell you, originally published in 1974 and as expressive as its most widespread titles (Who do you think you are ?, The progress of love, Too much happiness).

Big eight stories In a total of thirteen they ask to celebrate the recovery of these stories that pass through the semi-agrarian world of Munro, not so far removed from urban life, with its small-scale towns and familiar characters. Many critics have linked his narrative to the daily lives of women, but it is not a point of arrival but a starting point towards the light and deep motives that decide human destinies.


In “Something that I wanted to tell you” two elderly sisters talk about the return to town of an old boyfriend of one of them, then married to a serene, cordial man, who during the story remains like a shadow in the setting of the life of the two women because all the focus is on the twists and turns of Char’s relationship with his distant love. Only, with exquisite naturalness, on the end of that story Munro reveals that he has also told another plot, unnoticed by the reader, as it probably was for those who witnessed the lives of the sisters.

“Material” shows a similar intelligence in the story of a woman who demolishes the figure of her ex-husband, a pretentious writer with irregular luck, with whom she was married for many years. He denigrates him during most of the story, although he recognizes some merits, and it is undeniable that Munro takes advantage of it to mock the frivolities in literary environments. Many years have passed since the divorce and the two have rebuilt their lives, but the story shows the intimacy of a reproach that glows like an ember.

With a simpler and more emotional tone, the story “How I Met My Husband”, brings together a young domestic worker, intrigued, like the owners of the farm where she works, with the arrival of a pilot to a neighboring field to offer rides in his plane for a few dollars. As the days go by, his girlfriend also arrives behind the pilot, and the confusion, accusations and offenses lead to a series of paradoxes that end up installing the employee in the most unexpected position.

Alice Munro’s stories exhibit a maturity gained in observing life and its experiences, so that they do not require artifice or strong emphasis to convey what the author intends to say. It would seem that the story exists before being written, even before she discovers it herself, and only orders here and there the way to present it. Of course, this is an illusion promoted by the mastery of style, but it may be encouraged by tribal forms of permanence, which crystallize in the villages on histories of families, property and destinies, and become irrelevant in the fast-paced life. of the big cities. Munro also knows that reality is messy, capable of disproving many expectations, and he tells it with an underhanded comedy tone in “Forgiveness in Families”, a story by a woman about her deranged brother, always favored by his mother and rescued from a pathetic performance by chance. More predictable is the meeting that a grandmother contrives about the future of her granddaughter in the story “Marrakech”, but then it is the unprejudiced and free character of the old woman that sparkles with unexpected charm, and steals the story.

“Verdugos” is a magnificent Gothic story that returns to childhood with the portrait of its fears and seductions, against the background of some gruesome episodes to which it hardly alludes. It clearly shows that Munro’s prose, in a large part of his stories, does not advance by suggestions but by allusions, facts or episodes that are outside the surface of the text but within the story, in such different and subtle ways that they intervene in a way precise in the development of stories.
In contrast to the unspoken, it displays a rich world of details, which is more expressive, and fine perceptions. In an episode of the story “The Valley of Ottawa”, about to enter a church service with her mother and other relatives, a girl breaks the elastic of her panties. “I grabbed her from both sides in time; So I didn’t have hips to support anything ”. The only pin that the mother can offer her is holding a broken strap of her petticoat, so she tells her to take off her panties and no one will notice, but for nothing in the world does the girl want to enter the church naked, even if only under The skirt. It is a nuisance among women where shame is involved: either the mother exposes her petticoat under the hem of the dress, or the girl must be left out of the ceremony. The story evokes the mother’s progressive illness, the first perceptions of her suffering, and in a later sequence Munro has the luxury of affirming: “If I had really set out to create a story properly, I would have finished it, I think , at the moment when my mother does not answer me and walks away through the grass. It would have been enough. I didn’t stop there, I suppose, because I wanted to find out more, remember more ”. Again the lost reality is outside the story, and the narrator shares her choice with the reader.

The world of childhood erupts with more splendor in “An abandoned boat.” It is a story open like an umbrella, sustained by the vertex of an epiphany. Two girls sneak up on the boys’ world and shortly after, running through the countryside, they all take off their clothes to bathe in a river. So girls discover nudity, the nerves of nudity, before any erotic understanding. It is masterfully narrated, with the serenity of someone who has lived long enough to transmit the sensitive disorder of life in all the ages of the human heart.

Something I wanted to tell you is a book to thank and celebrate.

SOMETHING I WANTED TO TELL YOU, by Alice Munro. Lumen, 2021. Barcelona, ​​298 pp.

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Tales of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro to thank and celebrate