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.
Novelist Sebastian Barry explores the personal stories behind Ireland's political history
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.
Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland examines moral choice in an immoral world
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.
Zadie Smith on writing, family and her addiction to reading
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.
John le Carré on his legacy as a spy-turned-novelist
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.
Oliver Sacks on how an unconventional childhood shaped his love of science
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.
Toni Morrison on family bonds, race and coping with personal tragedy
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.