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Writers and Company from CBC Radio

Author: 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.
216 Episodes
Nigerian writer Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ made a stunning debut in 2017 with her acclaimed first novel, Stay With Me. Focusing on a young couple's struggles with infertility and cultural tradition, the novel won the Prix Les Afriques, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women's Fiction and named a best book of the year by the Guardian and Wall Street Journal. Her new novel, A Spell of Good Things, examines themes of power, politics and poverty in modern-day Nigeria, interweaving the stories of two very different families across the class divide.
Ayad Akhtar won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his provocative play Disgraced, described as "a combustible powder keg of identity politics." He's also tackled themes of race and culture through fiction: his first novel, American Dervish, about a young Pakistani-American boy growing up in the Midwest, and his powerful, prize-winning 2020 novel, Homeland Elegies. Frankly autobiographical, Homeland Elegies explores the idea of the "American dream" through the experience of Akhtar's parents and his own dual identity as a Muslim American following the 9/11 attacks. *This episode originally aired Oct. 25, 2020.
Over the past 30 years, American writer Elizabeth McCracken has become known for her extraordinary fiction imbued with insight, heart and humour. From her first novel, The Giant's House, to her most recent story collection, The Souvenir Museum, she focuses on characters that are different, even eccentric. Her latest novel, The Hero of This Book, was inspired by her own marvellous mother. It was named a 'Best Book of the Year' by numerous publications including The Washington Post, NPR and The New Yorker.
In 2013, Canadian-born, New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton made history when she became the youngest person ever to win the Booker Prize. Catton was just 28 and her novel, The Luminaries, went on to become an international bestseller. Catton later adapted her novel for a BBC-TV mini-series and wrote the screenplay for the 2020 film production of Jane Austen's Emma. Now, her much anticipated new novel, Birnam Wood, a page-turning eco-thriller set in New Zealand's South Island, tackles some of the biggest issues of our time, including the climate crisis, digital surveillance and economic inequality.
Growing up in Communist China, Yiyun Li devoured any books she could find. But she never imagined that, on moving to the U.S., she'd become the author of prize-winning fiction in English, including such acclaimed works as A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants and Kinder than Solitude. Her latest novel, The Book of Goose, is a beguiling tale of two peasant girls in rural post-war France. Inspired by a real-life literary hoax, it's a moving meditation on friendship, imagination and truth in storytelling.
When she was growing up in Zimbabwe, Petina Gappah read a story about the 19th-century explorer and missionary David Livingstone and his famous (though ultimately failed) search for the source of the Nile River. The story stuck with her and years later, Gappah reimagined Livingstone in her acclaimed 2019 novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light. Focusing on the African companions, servants and enslaved people who took Livingstone's body from present-day Zambia, where he died in 1873, to Zanzibar, the novel is a moving exploration of power, violence and resilience in pre-colonial Africa. *This episode originally aired on May 10, 2020.
Graeme Macrae Burnet's novels are something different: not-so-true crime stories that blur the line between documentary and fiction. The Scottish writer's 2015 book, His Bloody Project – set in the Highlands during the 19th century – was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while his most recent title, Case Study, has been called "a page-turning blast, funny, sinister and perfectly plotted." It takes place in 1960s London and follows a young woman drawn into the world of an unorthodox psychotherapist.
Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge engages with politics and memory through a variety of forms – from charcoal drawings, animation and sculptures, to immersive videos, theatre and opera. His 2022 exhibition at London's Royal Academy was hailed as "enthralling," an "operatic epic," while Kentridge's current retrospective at L.A.'s Broad Museum has been called "extraordinary." He spoke to Eleanor Wachtel about his work and career, as well as his recent "lockdown" project, a series of films about Kentridge's life in the studio, called "Self-Portrait as a Coffee Pot," which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.
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.
Comments (4)


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

May 9th

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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