From the Writers & Company archives: Alan Bennett

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This summer, the Writers & Company weekly podcast will feature some of the best shows from the show's archives. We hope you'll enjoy this opportunity to hear these programs that haven't been available as a podcast before.

Every week in July and August, CBC Books will bring you the Writers & Company podcast, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.

This week's Writers & Company podcast features Eleanor's 1995 conversation with Alan Bennett.

This interview originally aired on September 24, 1995.

You can listen to Writers & Company on CBC Radio One every Sunday at 3 p.m. ET and AT; 3:30 p.m. NT; 5 p.m. PT, MT and CT.


Alan Bennett, also known as England's "National Teddy Bear" -- has quite the impressive resumé. One of the original members of Beyond the Fringe, he's known for his plays and film adaptations The Madness of King George, The History Boys and The Habit of Art. He's also penned two critically acclaimed novellas, The Uncommon Reader and Smut.

Bennett himself is surprising and yet his talent is remarkably consistent. As the film critic David Thomson says, "Bennett has become a major figure in the English landscape despite versatility and his steadfast wish to remain hidden...He may be Britain's best and most stubborn surviving miniaturist." This desire to remain hidden not only characterizes Bennett, but also much of what he writes about — whether it's the famous English spies Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt or about the self-deceptions of more ordinary people in a brilliant television series called Talking Heads.

When Alan Bennett spoke with Eleanor Wachtel back in 1995, he was being celebrated for his play and film, The Madness of King George, which explored the contrast between public and private, the mask and the man behind it. Bennett is unequivocally famous. He was even nominated for an Oscar that year. He discusses this tension and more during their conversation, which you can listen to in the audio player above.

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