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Writers and Company

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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.
89 Episodes
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Germany's Jenny Erpenbeck is the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024 for her novel Kairos, translated by Michael Hofmann. She spoke with Eleanor Wachtel, who chaired the International Booker Prize jury, in 2015 about The End of Days, an imaginative story that spans the 20th century through the eyes of a character who lives multiple versions of her life. Erpenbeck also reflects on her own childhood, growing up in a literary family in East Berlin before the fall of the Wall, and the ways in which history, politics and her experience with personal and national transformations have inspired her work.
The British born author moved to New York in 2008 to write a book set in sixteenth-century India. But he was drawn to write about America, focusing on life in the city and the Mojave Desert in his two novels White Tears and Gods Without Men. Hari Kunzru spoke with Eleanor Wachtel in 2017 from New York
Jackie Kay’s adoption as a baby, and investigation into her birth parents — a Nigerian father and Scottish mother — give her an original take on Scotland and cultural identity. Jackie Kay talked about her uncomfortable discoveries upon meeting her birth parents, as well as her two books, Wish I Was Here and Darling: New and Selected Poems, when she met with Eleanor Wachtel at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh in 2007.
In 2004, just before she won the Scotiabank Giller Prize (for the second time) for her story collection, Runaway, Alice Munro met Eleanor Wachtel at a restaurant near the author's home to discuss her new book, her interest in writing about infidelity and sex and her life growing up in Wingham, Ontario. The acclaimed Canadian short story writer, and Canada's first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, died on May 13, 2024.
Paul Auster spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about his novel Oracle Night, the ways in which reality and fiction blend and how coincidences shape our lives at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal in 2004. The writer of The New York Trilogy, Leviathan and 4 3 2 1, among many other books, was best known for his postmodernist fiction and meta-narratives. He died on April 30, 2024. He was 77. 
From his childhood in San Francisco's sand dunes to sitting in French cafes with Philip Glass and Samuel Beckett, Richard Serra reflects on his life and work during a 2011 conversation with Eleanor Wachtel. Best known for his evocative and monumental steel structures, you can find Serra's sculptural works all over the world, including his piece Titled Spheres in Toronto Pearson Airport. Serra died in March. He was 85.
This week on Writers and Company, British poet Raymond Antrobus. Antrobus spoke with Eleanor Wachtel in 2019 about his collection, The Perseverance, which explores his complicated relationship with his late father and growing up deaf. 
This week, Irish novelist Colm Toibin discusses his short story collection, Mothers and Sons, which explores the unspoken and shifting dynamics in these relationships. Toibin is the author of Brooklyn, which was made into an Oscar-nominated feature film starring Saoirse Ronan, as well as Nora Webster, The Magician and more. His latest novel, Long Island, is the sequel to Brooklyn.
To celebrate poetry month, a conversation with one of England’s greatest living poets, Alice Oswald. Winner of the 2017 international Griffin Poetry Prize for her book Falling Awake, Oswald's work explores the relationship between human life and the natural world. Her latest title, Nobody, is a book-length poem inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.
This week on Writers and Company, Anita Desai — one of India's most celebrated and successful writers. Over the course of her career, which spans five decades, Desai has written several novels and has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times. Eleanor Wachtel spoke to her on stage at Montreal's Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in 2017, where she received the Grand Prix for lifetime achievement. Desai's latest book, Rosarita, is forthcoming from Picador Press. This interview originally aired May 7, 2017.
James Runcie's novel, The Great Passion, imagines a year in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach, culminating with the first performance of his St. Matthew Passion in Leipzig, Germany during Easter 1727. Told through the eyes of a fictional, 13-year-old student, it explores the man behind the legendary composer: an ambitious working musician and father of eight, coping with grief and loss, through faith and music. This interview originally aired June 12, 2022.
This week, two conversations with the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir The Return. In 2011, Libyan British author Hisham Matar spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about his childhood living under Gadhafi’s dictatorship and the search for his father, a political dissident who was imprisoned. Then, from 2020, Matar reflects on his memoir The Return and his book A Month in Siena, which explores the relationship between history, art and grief. Please note: this episode contains difficult subject matter.
This week on Writers and Company from the Archives, Irish authors Michael Collins, Claire Keegan, Colum McCann and Nuala O'Faolain. They spoke with Eleanor Wachtel in 2003 onstage at the Victoria Literary Arts Festival.
The American novelist and short story writer talked to Eleanor Wachtel about growing up in Mississippi and her novel, Pew, which follows a mysterious stranger who makes a big impact on a small town in the American South. This interview originally aired February 28, 2021.
This week, two conversations with Martin Amis, one of England’s most engaged and provocative writers. In 2014, Amis spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about his novel The Zone of Interest, which focuses on the Holocaust from a different angle. Its screen adaptation is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture. Followed by a conversation from 2019 about the Italian Jewish chemist, Holocaust survivor and writer, Primo Levi — whose work greatly inspired Amis’s writing — featuring Levi's biographer Ian Thomson. Please note: this episode contains difficult subject matter and discussion of suicide.
American novelist and musician James McBride is best known for his bestselling memoir, The Color of Water – about his immigrant Jewish mother and Black American father. In 2013, McBride won the National Book Award for his novel The Good Lord Bird - an irreverent portrayal of abolitionist John Brown. Eleanor Wachtel’s conversation with James McBride about these two books, and his life, first aired in 2014.
This week on Writers and Company from the Archives, Canadian poet, essayist, Greek and Latin scholar and librettist, Anne Carson. The author of Autobiography of Red and its sequel Red Doc> is also the first and only two-time winner of the Griffin Prize for Poetry. She spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in 2011 about her book Nox — an elegy to her brother and a moving reflection on absence 
Novelist, memoirist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo discusses her memoir, Nine Continents, which traces her life from a Chinese fishing village to Beijing and England. It won the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award. Guo spoke to Eleanor in 2018 about transforming her past into vivid art and literature. In 2023, she published a new memoir called Radical: A Life of My Own. WARNING: This discussion deals with suicide.
Looking back on Philip Roth, one of the most celebrated American writers, who died in 2018, aged 85. From Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint to The Plot Against America — Roth’s legacy lives on. He spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in 2009 about his early success, coping with fame and controversy, and the evolution of his writing... and his life.
The celebrated Congolese-French writer joined Eleanor Wachtel onstage at the Vancouver Writers Festival in 2016. Mabanckou's recent books are charming explorations of childhood, family and country. His memoir The Lights of Pointe-Noire relates his experience of returning to his hometown after 23 years, while his novel Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty captures his childhood spirit in the character of his 10-year-old alter ego.
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Comments (6)

Jim McCaskill

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

Jun 30th
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Johanna Sargeant

This was so intensely brilliant and inspiring.

May 8th
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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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