A Tribute to a National Treasure
Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day, has called Eleanor Wachtel “one of the very finest interviewers of authors I’ve come across anywhere in the world.” She was one of the very few interviewers who truly enjoyed discovering her subjects and their writings and thrived on the necessary research—Pierre Berton had the same intense desire to prepare thoroughly before sitting down with a guest. Eleanor eschewed the banal; her questions and responses were intelligent and considered. That quiet enjoyment of all things literary and their importance to a well rounded life shone through in every interview she did. She swam against the current stream in believing that a high level of objectivity was attainable and did her best to keep her own biases out of her conversations. Her example is one we can all learn from; she conducted her interviews with compassion, wit, sensitivity, and humour—attributes sorely lacking in so much of our current cultural onslaught of opinion.
She is a Canadian ‘National Treasure’ and her Sunday afternoon hour for the past 33 years is a loss to our identity. On her final show June 25 she had tributes from Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, and Jonathon Franzen; she was joined on the program by Gary Shteyngart and Brandon Taylor. She will be sorely missed by many Canadians as well as listeners wherever she was broadcast around the world. We can only hope she will continue writing and broadcasting in her inimitable style.
Fortunately we can still access podcasts of many of her interviews and she has promised to make all 33 years worth available. For a second career as brilliant as her first,