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Lydia Davis has been called "one of the quiet giants in the world of American fiction." Her 2007 short story collection, Varieties of Disturbance, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Davis's newest title, Our Strangers, contains 144 short stories in 300 pages. Lydia Davis spoke to Eleanor Wachtel on stage at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in Montreal. *This interview originally aired June 10, 2007.
WARNING: This discussion deals with suicide. Sigrid Nunez's eighth title, The Friend, won the 2018 U.S. National Book Award. Hailed as "a subtle, unassuming masterpiece," it follows a woman grieving the death of her friend as she cares for his 180-pound Great Dane. Nunez followed it with What Are You Going Through, which was named a New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2020. Her new novel, The Vulnerables, takes place during the early days of Covid lockdown. *This interview originally aired on May 30, 2021.
In honour of novelist and critic A.S. Byatt, who died on November 16, Writers & Company revisits her 2009 interview with Eleanor Wachtel, recorded live at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in Montreal. Byatt was there to launch her novel, The Children's Book, and to receive the festival's $10,000 Grand Prix. *Please note this interview includes reference to suicide. It originally aired on May 24, 2009.
In 2019, Eleanor Wachtel spoke to German-American graphic artist Nora Krug about her award-winning illustrated memoir, Belonging. It's a powerful and compassionate investigation into Krug's family's involvement in the Second World War and the impact of history on successive generations. Her new book, Diaries of War: Two Visual Accounts from Ukraine and Russia, is a real-time, personal record from a Ukrainian journalist and an anti-war Russian artist, which Krug solicited and then illustrated. *This interview deals with difficult subjects including the Holocaust and antisemitism. It originally aired on March 10, 2019.
WARNING: This discussion deals with suicide. In late 1994, Eleanor Wachtel spoke to award-winning author and Vietnam War veteran Tim O'Brien. He's the author of such acclaimed books as Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried and In the Lake of the Woods. O'Brien new novel – his first in 20 years – is called America Fantastica. *This interview originally aired on Jan. 15, 1995.
Jesmyn Ward's novel, Salvage the Bones, is an intimate and compelling look at Hurricane Katrina and the American South. It won the National Book award in 2011. Following the success of Salvage the Bones, Ward released her memoir, Men We Reaped, which examines her experiences with racism, the absence of her father and the death of her younger brother. Her new novel, Let Us Descend, follows an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War. *This interview originally aired on Sept. 28, 2014.
WARNING: This discussion deals with suicide. England's Jeanette Winterson reflects on her childhood and explores her search for love and belonging in her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. Winterson is the author of the hit, semi-autobiographical novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Her latest book, Night Side of the River, is a collection of ghost stories. *This interview originally aired in 2012.
John Grisham's novel The Reckoning re-imagines a story the author encountered more than 30 years ago about a murder in small-town Mississippi. It centres on Pete, a cotton farmer returning from the Second World War, and the mystery surrounding his motive for killing the local pastor. *This interview originally aired Mar. 24, 2019.
Viet Thanh Nguyen's 2016 novel, The Sympathizer, tells the story of a Communist Party spy who escapes Saigon and goes to California, where he leads a double life as an intimate of a former South Vietnamese general. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was on more than 30 'best book of the year' lists. Nguyen's new title is an unconventional memoir called A Man of Two Faces. *This interview originally aired Oct. 2, 2016.
The former inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright won the 2008 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Gathering, which revolves around the tragic death of a young man inside a large family, told from the perspective of his grieving sister. Enright's new title, The Wren, The Wren, has been called perhaps her best novel yet. *This interview originally aired Feb. 3, 2008. Please note it contains some discussion of suicide.
Acclaimed Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin has dedicated her life to telling the stories of Indigenous peoples. She's made more than 50 films with the National Film Board of Canada, including the landmark documentaries Christmas at Moose Factory, Incident at Restigouche and Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, and has been called "the most important filmmaker in the history of Canada." In 2008, Eleanor Wachtel spoke to Obomsawin at her home in Montreal.
Fiction writer Yan Ge is a literary sensation in China, where she was named one of her country's "future literary masters." Her novel, translated as Strange Beasts of China, is a mysterious, imaginative tale about mythological creatures who live alongside humans. Her latest book, Elsewhere, is a collection of short stories and Ge's first book written in English. *This episode originally aired Feb. 13, 2022.
The former laureate for Irish fiction, Sebastian Barry writes richly invented stories inspired by people in his own family – from his grandfather in the 2014 novel, The Temporary Gentleman, to Days Without End about his grandfather's uncle. His latest novel, Old God's Time, is on the longlist for this year's Booker Prize. Eleanor Wachtel has spoken to Barry many times over the years, starting in 2008 with his novel The Secret Scripture, about a 100-year-old woman forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital. *This episode originally aired Oct. 19, 2008.
Agnieszka Holland is perhaps best known for her films Europa Europa, Angry Harvest and In Darkness, as well as adaptations of The Secret Garden and Washington Square. Her latest film, Green Border, about the Syrian refugee crisis along Poland's border with Belarus, is having its North American premiere at TIFF. In 2013, she spoke to Eleanor Wachtel about her three-part series, Burning Bush, set during the Prague Spring. *This episode originally aired Dec. 17, 2013.
Eleanor Wachtel has spoken to the popular and critically acclaimed English writer Zadie Smith many times over the years, including in 2010 about her first non-fiction collection, Changing My Mind. It features essays about writers such as Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabokov and George Eliot and touches on everything from the craft of writing to Smith’s love of films, as well as personal reflections about her family. *This episode originally aired on February 28, 2010.
In this conversation from 2017, the master of the political thriller John le Carré spoke with Eleanor at his home in London about his novel A Legacy of Spies, which saw the return of his most famous character, the enigmatic British spy George Smiley. Carré talks about Smiley's enduring appeal, and about drawing on his own experience in Britain's intelligence service during the height of the Cold War for his bestselling fiction. John le Carré died in Dec. 2020 at the age of 89.
Known for his bestselling case studies The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings and An Anthropologist on Mars, British author and neurologist Oliver Sacks was one of a kind. Infused with enthusiasm and compassion, his writing explored the depths of human consciousness. Eleanor Wachtel spoke to Sacks in 2001 about his book, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. He died in 2015. He was 82 years old.
When Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, the Swedish Academy praised her for giving "life to an essential aspect of American reality," in novels "characterized by visionary force and poetic import." In this 2012 conversation, Morrison speaks with Eleanor Wachtel about her novels Home and A Mercy, as well as growing up in Ohio and the death of her son, Slade. Toni Morrison died in 2019. She was 88.
One of the premier American poets of his generation, Mark Strand used precise, everyday language, humour and surreal imagery to describe the quiet anguish of life. A former poet laureate of the U.S., he won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection, Blizzard of One. In 1999, Mark Strand spoke to Eleanor Wachtel about summers spent in Nova Scotia, engaging with art and the language of love. He died in 2014. He was 80 years old.
Eleanor Wachtel has spoken to the award-winning English writer Julian Barnes many times over the course of his lengthy career. In June 2016, he joined her onstage at the Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library to talk about his love of music, his novel The Noise of Time, about the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, and dealing with death. *Please note this episode contains some discussion of suicide.
Comments (6)

Jim McCaskill

"Tiger" was a type of panzer used by the Nazis. Sounds like grandpa was a bad ass.

Jun 30th

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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