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Writers and Company from CBC Radio

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CBC Radio's Writers and Company offers an opportunity to explore in depth the lives, thoughts and works of remarkable writers from around the world. Hosted by Eleanor Wachtel.
208 Episodes
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Kapka Kassabova left Bulgaria as a teenager after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Her family settled in New Zealand, where she began her career as a poet, travel writer and memoirist. Many years later, Kassabova returned to the land of her communist childhood to cross the once forbidden border between Bulgaria and Turkey and Greece. She wrote about this journey in her extraordinary 2017 book, Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which traces the region's history and mythology. *This episode originally aired Feb. 11, 2018.
Cultural journalist Hua Hsu has written about everything from the World Cup to Nirvana. Now, he's focusing on an important piece of his personal story – the senseless murder of his close friend from college and its impact on Hsu's own life. An exploration of grief, friendship and Asian-American identity, Stay True is also a coming-of-age story, told through music and pop culture. It was named one of the best books of 2022 by The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Washington Post, among others.
Amy Liptrot writes about extremes -- from the rugged environment of Scotland's Orkney Islands, where she grew up, to her struggles with alcoholism while navigating London's raucous party scene. Her 2015 memoir, The Outrun, won praise and prizes for its vivid evocation of the natural world on Orkney, to which Liptrot returned after spending time in rehab. Her new book, The Instant, focuses on urban wildlife and the heartbreak of a failed romance during a year spent in Berlin.
Amit Chaudhuri is considered one of the best Indian writers working today. A true renaissance man, he's a poet, essayist and musician, as well as the author of exquisite fiction. As the late Hilary Mantel described him, Chaudhuri "has, like Proust, perfected the art of the moment." His latest book, Sojourn -- set in Berlin -- is an evocative meditation on place and memory. Amit Chaudhuri spoke to Eleanor Wachtel from his home in Kolkata, India.
Fran Lebowitz has been compared to everyone from Dorothy Parker to Oscar Wilde, Alexis de Tocqueville to Mary McCarthy. In other words, she's an original – an idiosyncratic public intellectual who's also wickedly funny. She made a name for herself with her satirical pieces, which appear in her 1994 collection, The Fran Lebowitz Reader. More recently, she was the star and co-producer of the 2021 hit Netflix series, Pretend It's a City. Fran Lebowitz spoke to Eleanor Wachtel when she was in Edmonton for the University of Alberta's Festival of Ideas. *This episode originally aired November 25, 2012.
Tracy K. Smith won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 book of poetry, Life on Mars, which took its title from the David Bowie song of the same name. In its exploration of cosmic mysteries, the work was in part an elegy for her father, an electrical engineer who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. She followed it up with her 2015 memoir, Ordinary Light, which was named one of the best books of the year. A former U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith is now professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. *This episode originally aired on May 29, 2016.
Marie Kreutzer is one of Austria's most important and established filmmakers. Her new movie, Corsage, probes the inner life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary, an iconic figure in 19th-century history. She's been represented many times on screen, most recently in a Netflix series called "The Empress." Opening this month, Corsage has already garnered enthusiastic reviews and earned a Best Actress Award for its star, Vicky Krieps, at Cannes. Eleanor Wachtel spoke to Marie Kreutzer when the film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.
Cleopatra is one of the most famous women in history. As a wily seductress who charmed both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, she’s been the subject of numerous stage and screen portrayals. Francine Prose says she’s also greatly misunderstood. The award-winning novelist, essayist and critic has written about various real-life figures, from Anne Frank to Ethel Rosenberg. In her latest book, Cleopatra: Her History, Her Myth, Prose challenges common misperceptions about the queen of Egypt and how she's often represented in popular culture.
Thirty years ago, Salman Rushdie made a surprise appearance at a Canadian PEN fundraiser, while still in hiding because of the fatwa issued against him for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. Getting Rushdie to Toronto was an enormous undertaking and Writers & Company was one of few Canadian media outlets granted access to Rushdie before the event. As Rushdie continues his recovery from injuries sustained in an attack earlier this year, Writers & Company revisits conversations with Rushdie in 1992 and 2015 in a special tribute episode.
Lebanese German writer Pierre Jarawan made a stunning debut with his compelling novel, The Storyteller. Hailed as "a love letter to Lebanon," it became an international bestseller and earned him the title "Literature Star of the Year." His latest novel, Song for the Missing, is also set in Lebanon. Haunting and poetic, moving through different decades, it explores the lasting trauma from the country's 15-year civil war. Pierre Jarawan spoke to Eleanor Wachtel onstage last month at the Vancouver Writers Fest.
Charles Dickens and Prince were both brilliant, driven and beloved by their fans. And both died before their time, producing and performing to the end. It wasn’t until his early twenties that Nick Hornby read Dickens, around the same time he attended his first Prince concert. He still keeps their photos on his office wall, and in his new memoir, Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius, he explores the parallels between these two heroes and how their creativity inspires his own prolific career.
Lorraine Hansberry was one of the most brilliant — and radical —playwrights of the mid-20th century. The author of the wildly popular "A Raisin in the Sun," Hansberry was both the youngest and the first Black winner of the prestigious Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play in 1959. She's the subject of the acclaimed biography Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Princeton scholar Imani Perry. This conversation originally aired on May 12, 2019.
Nick Drnaso is the first – and only – graphic novelist to be nominated for a Booker Prize for his 2018 title, Sabrina, which was hailed as a "masterpiece." Now he's back with an ambitious new work, Acting Class, in which ten characters sign up for an acting class at their local community centre, where nothing is quite what it seems. *Please note this conversation deals with abuse.
One of Britain's leading novelists, Ian McEwan is the author of such acclaimed works as the Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam and the hugely popular Atonement, which was made into an Oscar-nominated movie. Now, he's back with Lessons, a story about a fictional alter-ego, Roland, with whom McEwan shares an intimate background -- until a transformative event leads Roland down a very different path. Ian McEwan spoke to Eleanor Wachtel onstage before a live audience at the Toronto International Festival of Authors.
Namwali Serpell's 2019 novel The Old Drift was hailed by Salman Rushdie as "a dazzling debut." It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction and was named a notable book of the year by the New York Times Book Review. Her time-bending new work, The Furrows, tells the story of one family's struggle with love and loss in the wake of a tragic accident. The novel is dedicated to Serpell's late sister, Chisha, who died from a drug overdose when Serpell was just 18.
French writer Hervé Le Tellier has had a career as a novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, mathematician, food critic and linguist. The phenomenal success of his latest novel The Anomaly — which he describes as a “thought experiment”— has been a surprise even to him. Winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, the novel sold a record-breaking million copies at home and is being translated into 40 languages.
Named one of the best working novelists in Britain and Ireland by the Times Literary Supplement, Gwendoline Riley is a master at depicting the subtle ways in which human beings can be cruel to each other — especially when they’re family. She speaks with Eleanor Wachtel about her new novel My Phantoms and her award-winning previous book First Love.
As an awkward, anxious child, Fredrik Backman fell in love with sports and books. His latest title, The Winners, concludes his powerful Beartown trilogy, which focuses on a small town and its junior hockey club in northern Sweden. Sensitive and timely, The Winners explores the many sides of "hockey culture." Beartown has been adapted into a popular HBO series, and Backman’s previous titles, Anxious People and A Man Called Ove, have also been adapted for the screen. Please note: this conversation includes some discussion of suicide.
Writers & Company revisits Eleanor Wachtel’s 2012 conversation with one of England’s great novelists, Hilary Mantel, who died on Sept. 22, 2022. She was 70. Mantel was one of the few writers to win the Booker Prize twice — first in 2009 for Wolf Hall, and again in 2012 for its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. She talked to Eleanor Wachtel about historical fiction, power and violence, and her fascination with Thomas Cromwell, the man at the centre of her sensational Tudor England saga.
Described as “a literary and cultural sensation” by the Paris Review, and considered a favorite for the Nobel Prize, Javier Marias died on September 11th in Madrid, at the age of seventy. In 2017, Eleanor Wachtel joined Marias (at his book-filled Madrid apartment) to talk about his novel Thus Bad Begins, which draws on both his country's dark past and his own family history.
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Comments (4)

Sandy

Fantastic! Hilarious. such authenticity and innocence. Going to find books!

May 9th
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Peter MacRaild

Why would you consort with Niall Ferguson, Eleanor?

Jun 14th
Reply (1)

Glory Dey

Nice Interview, Enjoyed The Episode, Fascinating Insight Into The Author's Life And Work! I Love All The Jack Reacher Books! Interesting To Understand The Author's Psyche About His Life & Writings! Cheers!

Oct 31st
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