On Sunday it was announced that the literary radio program hosted by Eleanor Wachtel will air its final episode on June 25, after the show is recorded in front of a special live studio audience.
“We’ve had a terrific run,” Wachtel said in a statement released by the CBC. “It’s been a privilege to engage with the finest minds in the world, and my life has been enriched beyond measure.”
She said leaving the show was “a very bittersweet moment,” but added: “I don’t think of this as retirement. Retirement is not a word that I relate to. I see it more as a change of pace. I’m planning to stay in the game. I’m hoping to use the wealth of my experience to take on different projects.”
Wachtel is such an integral part of Writers & Company that the show’s “about” page on the CBC website is just a short biography of its host.
She was born in Montreal in 1947, and studied English literature at McGill University there. After spending time as a freelance writer and broadcaster in Vancouver in the 1970s, she moved to Toronto to work full-time as a literary commentator on CBC Stereo’s program State of the Arts, and then as a writer-broadcaster for The Arts Tonight, a program she hosted from 1996 until it ended in 2007.
Wachtel has hosted Writers & Company since its debut in 1990. The hour-long show originally featured several authors in each episode, but after a powerful hour-long interview in 1991 with South African author and Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer, the show moved to a more in-depth style with a single guest each week.
Her guests have included such names as Mordecai Richler, Alice Munro, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, J.M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje and Zadie Smith. Guest Kazuo Ishiguro called her “one of the finest interviewers of authors I’ve come across anywhere in the world.” John LeCarré ended his interview by telling her: “You do it better than anyone I know.”
The show has given rise to several printed collections of interviews, including Writers & Company (featuring Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan and others), More Writers & Company (Oliver Sacks, Isabel Allende, etc.) and Random Illuminations: Conversations with Carol Shields. Wachtel was named to the order of Canada in 2004, and a decade later was promoted from Member to Officer.