Alice Munro’s new book reveals the wound into which she has been dipping her pen during her remarkable career, writes Tegan Bennett Daylight
husband, Peter, is on the platform, waving and smiling. ‘‘ The smile for Katy was wide open, sunny, without a doubt in the world, as if he believed that she would continue to be a marvel to him, and he to her, forever.’’ The smile for Greta is more complicated, and contains something ‘‘ that could not easily be put into words and indeed might never be’’. This is at the heart of Munro’s work, the thing that could not be put into words. But Munro, more than any other writer, works calmly and tirelessly to put the unsayable on the page. Greta, who is hoping to meet a possible lover at the end of her journey, rushes towards her fate with a quick sexual skirmish aboard the train, during which she believes Katy, who is three or four, is asleep in their berth.
When she checks on Katy, she is gone. Greta, panicked, finally finds her sitting alone and lost ‘‘ on one of those continually noisy sheets of metal’’ that join the carriages together. Katy is not hurt, but she is not safe; the potential for disaster is enormous.
There is a universal quality to Alice Munro’s prose