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Writers and Company

Author: CBC

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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.
80 Episodes
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.
In a special conversation recorded in Toronto in 2002, Eleanor Wachtel spoke with Barbara Holdridge and Marianne Mantell, founders of Caedmon Records, a pioneer in commercial spoken word recordings. You'll hear the voices of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and more.
Celebrated Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat speaks to Eleanor Wachtel about her moving memoir, Brother, I’m Dying. It tells the story of Danticat's family amid turbulent times, focusing on her father and his brother, the uncle who raised her in Haiti and later died in custody as he sought refuge in Miami. *This episode originally aired October 21, 2007.
In a rare joint conversation recorded onstage in Montreal in 2001, popular novelist Margaret Drabble and her husband, the influential biographer Michael Holroyd, spoke to Eleanor Wachtel about their once-secret marriage, and exploring their parents' stories through works of fiction and memoir.
Remembering the popular and provocative English writer, Martin Amis, who died in May 2023 at the age of 73. Son of acclaimed author Sir Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis is perhaps best known for his novels Money, London Fields and The Information. You'll also hear part of Eleanor Wachtel's 1992 interview with Kingsley Amis, recorded at his home in London. This episode originally aired in 2007.
For Writers & Company's final original episode, Eleanor Wachtel is interviewed on-stage by Matt Galloway, host of CBC Radio's The Current. She then speaks with American authors Brandon Taylor and Gary Shteyngart, and receives surprise greetings from the likes of Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen and Zadie Smith.
In 2016, French-Moroccan novelist Leila Slimani won the Prix Goncourt for her provocative thriller, The Perfect Nanny, which was named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and is currently being adapted into a limited series starring Nicole Kidman. Slimani's 2020 novel, In the Country of Others, was the first of a planned trilogy – an intergenerational family saga set in Morocco after the Second World War. The forthcoming second volume, Watch Us Dance, takes place during the late 1960s and early '70s, a time when political repression and social optimism were coming head to head.
One of the world's most celebrated writers, Michael Ondaatje is the author of such acclaimed works as Running in the Family, Anil's Ghost, In the Skin of a Lion and The English Patient, which won the 2018 Golden Man Booker Prize, named the best novel of the Booker's 50-year history. His writing, both poetry and prose, is often rooted in history – from Toronto in the early 1900s, to North Africa during the Second World War, to Ondaatje's childhood in Sri Lanka. He recently won the Grand Prix for lifetime achievement from Montreal's Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival.
Called "a poet of ecstatic revelation," U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón brings an observant eye and sense of wonder to all her work – from 2015's Bright Dead Things, to her acclaimed 2018 collection, The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Limón's latest book, The Hurting Kind, is a finalist for the $130,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. The winner will be announced at a live event, complete with readings, on Wednesday June 7 at Koerner Hall in Toronto.
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.
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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