Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel


Margo Jefferson on her musical icons, the Black elite and the power of self-creation

The American writer, academic and cultural critic spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about her memoir Constructing a Nervous System, an incisive look at race, class, music and feminism.

Turkish American novelist Elif Batuman on finding — and losing — yourself in fiction

The Turkish American novelist spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about her latest book, Either/Or, the sequel to her semi-autobiographical novel, The Idiot.

James Runcie on the beauty, sorrow and genius of Johann Sebastian Bach

The British novelist spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about his latest book, The Great Passion, a fictional imagining of J.S. Bach as an ambitious, passionate musician and father.

Natalie Haynes on the fantastic and fearsome women of Greek myth

The British writer, broadcaster and comedian spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about how her book Pandora's Jar explores the untold stories of the women in Greek myths.

Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier on life, love and The Worst Person in the World

In conversation with Eleanor Wachtel, the celebrated director reflects on his grounded yet hopeful approach to filmmaking.

Jamaica Kincaid on family, place and the beauty of language 

In this 2002 conversation, the celebrated Antiguan-American writer spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about exploring the mysteries of love and longing.

Kiese Laymon bears the weight of a difficult past in his powerful memoir, Heavy

In this 2019 conversation, the American author and academic spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about exploring identity, addiction and childhood trauma growing up in the Deep South.

The Art of Silence: How Marcel Marceau touched hearts and saved lives without words

The world-famous French mime is the subject of The Art of Silence, a new documentary by Swiss filmmaker Maurizius Staerkle Drux. The film is streaming as part of the 2022 Hot Docs film festival, with a screening on May 8.

John Keats, the ultimate Romantic poet: an intriguing new take on his life from Lucasta Miller

The British critic and historian spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about how her book Keats: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph explores the tragic life of the English Romantic lyric poet.

Claire Keegan's Small Things Like These is a story of moral crisis, heroism and the human heart

The acclaimed Irish writer spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about her new novella — and why it zeroes in on themes of love, complicity and human decency.

The unbridled brilliance of Stephen Fry: the versatile English performer chronicles his own life

In this 2011 conversation, the English actor, comedian and writer spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about his life and three autobiographies: Moab Is My Washpot, The Fry Chronicles and More Fool Me.

Ocean Vuong embraces life after loss in his new book of poems, Time Is a Mother

In conversation with Eleanor Wachtel, the Vietnamese American poet and author spoke about coping with the death of his mother and writing poems with themes of addiction, hope and survival.

Legendary filmmaker Liv Ullmann on acting, directing and her special bond with Ingmar Bergman

In this 2014 interview, the Norwegian actress and director talked to Eleanor Wachtel about her period drama film Miss Julie. Ullmann received an honorary Oscar for "bravery and emotional transparency" in 2022.

From child actor to award-winning filmmaker: Sarah Polley tells her own story in her powerful new book

Writing a book is "the thing I've most wanted to do," the Canadian actor, director and writer said to CBC Radio's Eleanor Wachtel. Polley's debut book is a collection of personal essays called Run Towards the Danger.

Jason Mott celebrates the Black imagination in his surprising, moving, Hell of a Book

In conversation with Eleanor Wachtel, the American author talks about writing an absurdist story that reflects on racism and police violence. Hell of a Book won the 2021 U.S. National Book Award for fiction.  

Min Jin Lee on the untold story of Koreans in Japan

In this 2017 conversation, Eleanor Wachtel spoke with the Korean American writer about her second novel, Pachinko, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Israeli graphic novelist Rutu Modan finds inspiration in current realities and family secrets

Rutu Modan's Tunnels mirrors the complexity of contemporary Israeli life. The award-winning artist spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about creating a witty, dramatic adventure story involving an archeological dig in the West Bank.

Percival Everett's The Trees imagines a world where the horrors of lynching are avenged

In conversation with Eleanor Wachtel, the American professor and novelist reflects on writing a satirical critique of white supremacy in the Deep South.

The legacy of Joan Didion: The influential stylist inspired generations of writers

The prolific American writer, who died in December 2021 at the age of 87, was known for pioneering the New Journalism movement in the 1960s. Didion spoke with Eleanor Wachtel in 2005 about her life and work.

Chinese writer Yan Ge finds solace in creating literary worlds

The Sichuan-born fiction writer spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about identity, loss and the nature of being human.

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu brought a spiritual dimension to South Africa's liberation struggle

Desmond Tutu died on Dec. 26, 2021 at the age of 90. In this 2001 conversation, the South African anti-apartheid activist, theologian and author spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about faith and the painful process of healing.

Nadifa Mohamed imagines the life of a Somali man wrongfully executed in her novel The Fortune Men

The Somali-British novelist and Booker Prize finalist spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about uncovering the real story behind a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Quiara Alegría Hudes on her journey to writing the hit musical In the Heights

The acclaimed American playwright spoke to Eleanor Wachtel about her popular musical — and the questions of identity that inspired her new memoir, My Broken Language.

U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo pays homage to art and ancestors in her new memoir, Poet Warrior

The poet, musician and memoirist spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about the joys and harsh realities of her early life — and finding refuge in poetry and art.

Damon Galgut probes South Africa's troubled history in his Booker Prize winner, The Promise

The South African novelist and playwright spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about writing The Promise, a novel that follows a white Pretoria family through the dismantling of apartheid.