Archive of beloved CBC show Writers & Company comes to SFU

SFU Library is delighted to be the new home of the complete digital archive of Writers & Company, CBC’s flagship literary program, hosted by Eleanor Wachtel for 33 years.

Thanks to an extraordinary partnership with the CBC, researchers and the public alike will be able to freely access this important and prestigious collection on the SFU Library website beginning in September. Here’s a sneak peek!

Photo of Eleanor Wachtel

Eleanor Wachtel, host of Writers & Company. Photo credit: CBC.

Over 30 years of unique, in-depth interviews

CBC’s Writers & Company archive comprises 1,000+ hours of Wachtel’s intimate, in-depth interviews with authors, writers, and thinkers from around the world whose ideas and perspectives have impacted the contemporary English language literary ecosystem. The material is an invaluable resource for students and researchers of literature, gender studies, politics, and culture as well as for readers and listeners worldwide.

The very first episode of the renowned program was an hour-long interview with South African author and Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer in 1991. In the decades since, Wachtel interviewed an astonishing array of individuals, including Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, John le Carré, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Kazuo Ishiguro, Zadie Smith, and many more.

In her retirement announcement on CBC last year, Wachtel shared the news that Writers & Company was coming to a close; the final original episode aired in June 2023.

 

Bringing a rich cultural legacy to SFU

Wachtel holds an honorary degree from SFU, conferred in 2007, and is also a former adjunct professor in SFU’s Women’s Studies department, now known as Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. 

“Over more than three decades, I’ve had the privilege to speak with some of the most exceptional writers of our time, from Canada and around the world,” observes Wachtel. “To devote a whole hour to a single author, filmmaker, artist or great thinker, to have an intimate, wide-ranging conversation—in many cases more than once, to follow a career—is truly a gift. This unique digital archive also includes interviews with 14 winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, often before they received recognition from the Nobel committee, and then engaging with them afterwards as well. At the same time, the program has featured new voices—writers who went on to become established names in the literary world."

The archive at SFU will be a rich resource, not just for fans of the program but for academics and lovers of literature of all kinds.

Eleanor Wachtel

Michelle Levy, a professor in the English department, calls the Writers & Company collection “an incomparable archive.”

“For over three decades, Writers & Company has delighted and enriched audiences, with conversations that bring us closer to the writers and artists we cherish,” Levy says. “We are excited to dig into this exciting collection for what it can tell us about the history of literature and culture, the art of the interview, and the evolution of radio.”

A collection made freely available online

SFU Library has been working closely with CBC on the transfer of the digital archive, including digitized episodes, born-digital episode files, and metadata for all of the material in the collection in preparation for making all of the episodes available online.

Thanks to SFU Library’s partnership with the CBC, past and future listeners—from scholars and students to the general public—will have the chance to experience and engage with this rich, insightful archive of interviews for years to come. Get a sneak-peek and access the first 10 episodes!

We are grateful to Eleanor and CBC for entrusting the SFU Library with the stewardship of this important cultural touchstone. It's very exciting to be involved in the project to preserve and make accessible this one-of-a-kind collection

Alexandra Wieland, Acting Head of Special Collections and Rare Books

SFU Library’s Special Collections is home to a broad range of rare and unique content, from personal and organizational archives, manuscripts, and books to photographs, posters, sound and video recordings, oral histories, and more. The existing collections include thousands of hours of literary audio recordings from the past 50 years, featuring BC and Canadian authors, as well as international writers. In addition, SFU has been a partner with SpokenWeb, a SSHRC-funded project to digitize, describe, amalgamate and study literary audio across Canada. Through this project, the interdisciplinary team, consisting of faculty, students, librarians, archivists and technology experts, has acquired considerable expertise in working with literary audio.

Engage with us

Learn more about you can support the Writers & Company preservation project to preserve and maintain this extraordinary resource for future generations.

For more information on this or other collections, reach out to our team at Special Collections and Rare Books: 778.782.5674 or scrb@sfu.ca.

Date(s)
April
Contact for further information
Questions? Reach out to our team at Special Collections and Rare Books: 778.782.5674 or scrb@sfu.ca.