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One of Britain's foremost travel writers, Sara Wheeler has written bestselling books and biographies about the polar region and its famous expeditions, as well as the United States, Chile, Russia and Greece. Now, in Glowing Still: A Woman's Life on the Road, Wheeler turns the lens on herself, considering a life spent on the road and writing in what has historically been a male-dominated genre. Part memoir, part travelogue, Glowing Still spans seven continents and has been described as "funny, furious writing from the queen of intrepid travel."
Daniel Barenboim has been conductor of the Orchestra of Paris and musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Berlin State Opera, a position he held for three decades. Along with the Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, Barenboim created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, bringing together young musicians from the Middle East, especially Israel and the Arab world. Speaking to Eleanor Wachtel from Milan in 2008, he talked about the orchestra's historic 2005 concert in Ramallah, growing up on Bach and the meaning of music in his life. This episode originally aired on Wachtel on the Arts on IDEAS in 2008.
From Belgrade and London, the remarkable novelist, poet and memoirist, Vesna Goldsworthy. She spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in 2019 about her novel Monsieur Ka, an ingenious re-working of Tolstoy’s masterpiece, Anna Karenina — picking up where his story left off. Set in post-war London and focusing on the life of Anna's abandoned son, it’s an entertaining and affecting story about identity, exile and fiction.
Author of the powerful and poetic Grief is the Thing With Feathers, the best-selling British novelist talks with Eleanor Wachtel about his new novel, Shy, and his original imaginings of the natural world
On May 4, the winner of the inaugural US$150,000 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, which celebrates the work of Canadian and American women and non-binary writers, will be announced. In honour of the prize, Writers & Company is airing Eleanor Wachtel's last conversation with Shields, recorded at her home in Victoria in 2002. Shields died the following year. She was the author of more than 20 books including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Stone Diaries, The Republic of Love and Swann: A Mystery. Her last novel, Unless, tells the story of a writer struggling with the loss of her daughter, who's chosen to live on a downtown street corner with a cardboard sign fixed to her that reads "Goodness." *This episode originally aired on July 17, 2003.
In Diary of an Invasion, bestselling Ukrainian novelist and journalist Andrey Kurkov documents daily life during the first year of Russia's war, fusing the personal, historical and political. Known for novels that are pointed yet playful, his most recent, Grey Bees, explores the 2014 conflict and its aftermath in eastern Ukraine through the eyes of a beekeeper living in the crosshairs. It won the 2023 National Book Critics Circle award for translation. Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv, an earlier title now out in English translation, was longlisted for the International Booker Prize.
One of the most brilliant and influential writers of his generation, Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at The New Yorker, host of the Revisionist History podcast and author of many bestselling books, including The Tipping Point, Blink and Talking to Strangers. In 2012, Gladwell spoke to Eleanor Wachtel onstage at the Toronto Reference Library as part of Jamaica 50, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. *This episode originally aired June 10, 2012.
Originally a poet, Vikram Seth attracted international attention in 1993 with the publication of his mammoth novel, A Suitable Boy. Set against the backdrop of post-colonial India, the novel made Seth into a literary celebrity – dubbed "India's Tolstoy" and "the Golden Boy." In 2005 he spoke to Eleanor Wachtel onstage at the Toronto International Festival of Authors about his book Two Lives. Part memoir, part family history, Two Lives chronicles the remarkable story of Seth's great aunt Henny – a German Jew who lost her family in the Holocaust – and his great uncle Shanti – an Indian-born, Berlin-trained dentist, who lost an arm fighting in World War Two. *This episode originally aired November 20, 2005.
English writer Sarah Bakewell is the author of engaging, accessible books about thinkers, from existentialists such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre to the 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne – a work which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In her new book, Humanly Possible, Bakewell examines the centuries-long tradition of humanist thinking through the ideas and observations of a range of figures from Boccaccio and Erasmus to E.M. Forster and Zora Neale Hurston.
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.
Comments (5)

Johanna Sargeant

This was so intensely brilliant and inspiring.

May 8th


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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