Canada's Alice Munro -- called the "master of the contemporary short story" -- won the 2013 Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences announced Thursday.
The prize committee compared the 82-year-old author to Anton Chekhov, the 19th century Russian who is considered one of the greatest short story writers in history.
She's the first Canadian-based writer to win the literature award. Saul Bellow, who won it in 1976, was born in Quebec but moved to the United States as a child and is regarded as a U.S. author.
Munro is the 13th woman to receive the literature prize.
"On behalf of all Canadians," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a tweet, "congratulations to Alice Munro."
After the prestigious award was announced, the Nobel committee said on Twitter that it hadn't been able to contact Munro and left a phone message to tell her the good news. But The Canadian Press contacted her, and she was quoted as saying the award was "quite wonderful" and she was "terribly surprised."
"I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win," she said, according to a Toronto Star story quoting The Canadian Press.
Doug Gibson, Munro's publisher, spoke to CNN affiliate CTV and read a statement on the author's behalf.
"I am amazed and very grateful. I am particularly glad that winning this award will please so many Canadians. I'm happy that this will bring more attention to Canadian writing," she said, according to Gibson.
Munro's work long has been likened to Chekhov's. Another acclaimed author, American Cynthia Ozick, has referred to Munro as "our Chekhov."
The Nobel committee noted that "some critics consider Munro a Canadian Chekhov."
"Munro is acclaimed for her finely tuned storytelling, which is characterized by clarity and psychological realism," the committee said.
"Her stories are often set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflicts -- problems that stem from generational differences and colliding life ambitions.
"Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning," the committee said.
The author has won many honors over the years, including the 2009 Man Booker International Prize.
"Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels. To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before," the Man Booker judging panel said at the time.
Lives near her childhood home
Munro, who lives in the southwestern Ontario town of Clinton, was born near there in Wingham, where her father was a fox farmer and her mother was a teacher.
She started writing stories in her teen years and studied journalism and English at the University of Western Ontario.