Write a summary of The Interview by Christopher Silvester?


This is an excerpt taken from Christopher Silvester’s introduction to the ‘Penguin Book of Interview, An Anthology from 1859 to the Present Day.’

In this excerpt, Christopher Silvester talks about the invention of interview in the field of journalism. What came into being a little over hundred and thirty years ago, has made a place for itself in journalism. Now, every educated person in the world will have read or come across at least one interview. Celebrities are interviewed every now and then, some are interviewed repeatedly. Therefore, it is possible that different people will have different opinions about interviews, especially of its functions, methods and merits. To some, it’s the greatest source of truth and a form of art. However, others, mainly celebrities, feel victimised. They claim that it is an intrusion into their private lives. They look down upon it because they feel diminished by it.

Some famous celebrities are or were strictly against interviews. According to V.S. Naipaul people tend to lose a part of themselves because they are wounded by interviews; Lewis Carroll, never agreed to give interviews because he detested being lionised. This is why he avoided meeting new people, interviewers and fans asking for his autograph. Rudyard Kipling was once quoted saying to the reporters that interviews were immoral, a crime, cowardly and vile. H.G. Wells, although agreed to be interviewed frequently, too felt the interviewing ordeal. Later he interviewed Joseph Stalin. For Saul Bellow interviews were like thumb prints on his windpipe. He used this expression to refer to the pressure and discomfort felt by a celebrity while giving an interview.

There may be many drawbacks of interviews, yet Mr. Silvester feels that it is an extremely ‘serviceable medium of communication’.

According to Mr. Denis Brian, it is because one person is asking another person questions that we come to know about the person. Hence, “the interviewer holds a position of unprecedented power and influence.


This extract is from an interview of Mr. Umberto Eco, writer of the famous novel ‘The Name of the Rose’. The interviewer is Mr. Mukund Padmanabhan from ‘The Hindu’. The readers come to know about various aspects of Mr. Eco’s writing styles and ideas.

Umberto Eco was a professor at the University of Bologna in Italy. He was known as a scholar of semiotics, literary interpretation and medieval aesthetics. Eventually, he turned to writing fiction more or less at the age of fifty. In 1980, his novel ‘The Name of the Rose’ won him many accolades.

During the interview Mr. Eco says that it may appear as if he is doing many things all at once. However, he insists that he has always pursued his philosophical interests, and continues to do so through his writings and his novels. He reveals his secret of success. He says that he utilises and takes advantage of the empty spaces in between his tasks and meetings.

Mr. Padmanabhan then asks Mr. Eco about the playful and personal quality in his writing, whether it is fiction, non-fiction or any of his scholarly works. He wants to know how did it came to be– was it natural or consciously adopted? To this Mr. Eco replies that he had always had such narrative writing style. He says novel writing happened to him accidentally. One day he had nothing to do, so he started writing narratives.

Mr. Umberto Eco identifies himself as an academician and likes to be called so. He has done more philosophical writing over (forty) than fictional writing (five novels), yet he is more popular as a fiction writer than as an academician. When Mr. Padmanabhan asks Mr. Eco the reason behind the massive success of his novel ‘The Name of the Rose.’ Mr. Eco replies that he doesn’t know either. He says it was probably because of the time when it was written, which Umberto Eco feels was simply appropriate. He goes on to say that had the book come out ten years prior or later, the novel would not have received so much acclaim.

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