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Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

Alice Ann Munro, the Canadian short story writer, has won the Nobel Prize in literature.

She's arguably the most popular writer to win the prestigious award - worth $1.2 million and given for a body of work, not a specific title - since Toni Morrison, the last American to win, did so in 1993.

Munro, 82, has been celebrated for her accessible and moving stories, set mostly in the small towns of her native Ontario.

She told The Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this year that she planned to retire after Dear Life, her 14th story collection.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Munro as a "master of the contemporary short story."

Frequently published in The New Yorker, Munro's stories have been included in Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Awards.

She had previously won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work and is a three-time winner ofCanada's Governor General's Award for fiction.

Munro has been praised as one of the greatest contemporary writers of fiction, or, as Cynthia Ozick once put it, "our Chekhov."

Her selection was an upset - at least to British bookmakers who had tagged Belarus's Svetlana Alexievich and Japan's Haruki Murakami as the front runners.

In Oslo, Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told reporters that Munro is capable of a "fantastic portrayal of human beings." Whether she is really finished writing, he said, is up to her.

"She has done a marvelous job," Englund said. "What she has done is quite enough to win the Nobel Prize. If she wants to stop writing, that's her decision."

Since the prize was first awarded in 1901, a majority of the winners have been European - although Mario Vargas Llosa, a native of Peru who moved to Spain, won in 2011.

American critics have suggested Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Pates, Thomas Pynchon Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy as prospective Nobel winners.

The Nobel's official website lists the Top 10 most popular literature laureates in order of popularity: John Steinbeck; Rabindranath Tagore; Ernest Hemingway; William Falkner; Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Winston Churchill; Pablo Neruda; William Golding; and Albert Camus.

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