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The Interview Summary in English by Christopher Silvester

The Interview by Christopher Silvester About the Author

Christopher Silvester (1959) was educated at Lancing College Sussex, and Peter House, Cambridge, where he read history. From 1983 to 1994, he worked for Private Eye, initially writing the ‘New Boys’ column. He has written for several newspapers and magazines. He is also the Editor of The Penguin Book of Interviews: An Anthology from 1859 to the Present Day and the author of The Pimlico Companion to Parliament. He currently writes obituaries for the Times (of London) and book reviews. He is writing a three-volume social history of Hollywood for Pantheon Books.

Author Name Christopher Silvester
Born 1959, London
Education Lancing College, Sussex, and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read history
Books The Pimlico Companion to Parliament: A Literary Anthology
Books edited The Penguin Book of Interviews: An Anthology from 1859 to the Present Day
The Interview Summary by Christopher Silvester
The Interview Summary by Christopher Silvester

The Interview Introduction to the Chapter

‘The Interview’ is an extract from an interview of Umberto Eco. The interviewer is Mukund Padmanabhan : from the ‘The HINDU’. Thousands of celebrities have been interviewed over the years. Our most vivid impressions about contemporary celebrities are through interviews. But for some of them, interviews , are ‘unwarranted intrusion in their lives’.

In the second part of the chapter, the interviewer highlights how Umberto Eco considers himself as an . academician first and a novelist later on. He considers himself a university professor who writes novels : on Sundays – occasionally. The possible reasons of the huge success of Eco’s novel, ‘The Name of the i Rose’ are also highlighted in the interview.

The Interview Theme

‘The Interview’ written by Christopher Silvester briefs the new invention ‘Interview’ in the field of journalism. Interview that was invented over 130 years has become a commonplace journalism. Today, every literate or illiterate will have to experience interview at some points of their life. It is surprising to notice that as an interviewer, each one is comfortable, whereas as an interviewee, they feel it much disturbing and diminishing.

The Interview Summary in English

The narration, “The Interview”, written by Christopher Silvester is a very interesting lesson speaking about the invention of the interview about 130 years ago. We face interviews throughout our journey of life and several thousand celebrities are the part and parcel of this process. Yh e opinions of the interview—its functions, methods and merits—vary considerably. Some people believe that they are able to recall the truth while there are those who have a great despise from the word ‘interview’. They believe it to be a kind of direct encounter into the lives of the celebrities. In this context, some of the world fame writers had varied opinion. According to V.S. Naipaul, a cosmopolitan writer, “Some people are wounded by interviews and lose a part of themselves.”

Given below is an extract from an interview of Umberto Eco. He is interviewed by Mukund Padmanabhan from The Hindu.

Mukund : Once an English novelist, David Lodge remarked that he was unable to understand how Eco could do so many things.

Umberto Eco : People might feel, ‘I am doing many things but in the end I have found that I am always doing the same thing.’

Mukund : Which is that thing?

Umberto Eco : It is very difficult to explain. I have got some philosophical interests which are pursued by my novels and academic work. There are my books for children. They are about peace and non-violence and this is all philosophical interest. Even then there is a secret. All of us have a lot of empty spaces in our lives and I call them interstices.

Suppose you are coming over in an elevator to my place and I am waiting for you. This is an interstice—an empty space. I work in empty spaces. Your elevator will come up from the first to the third floor, and I am waiting for it. I have already written an article.

Mukund : It must be your non-fictioiial writing. Your work has a certain playful and personal quality about it. This is a departure from a regular academic style. You must have adopted an informal approach.

Umberto Eco : While presenting my first doctoral dissertation in Italy, one of the professors said “Scholars learn a lot of certain subjects, then they make a lot of false hypotheses, correct them and give the conclusions. But you told the story of your research.”

At the age of 22,1 understood that the scholarly books should be written the way I had done—by telling the story of the research. So, my essays have a narrative aspect. At the age of 50, I started writing novels. I remember that my friend Roland Barthes was always frustrated that he was an essayist and not a novelist. He wanted to do some creative writing but he died. In my case, I started writing novels by accident. The novels satisfied my taste for narration.

Mukund : Thus, you became famous after the publication of The Name of the Rose. You have written five novels and many more on non-fiction. Among them a seminal piece of work on semiotics. If we ask people about Umberto Eco, they will say that he is a novelist. Does it trouble you?

Umberto Eco : Of course, it troubles me. I consider myself a University Professor who writes novels on Sundays. It is not a joke. I always participate in academic conferences. I do not attend the meetings of Pen Clubs and writers. I identify myself with the academic community. By writing novels, I am in a position to reach to the large number of people. I cannot expect to have one million readers with stuff on semiotics.

Mukund : I ask you another question. Your novel The Name of the Rose is very serious novel. At one level, it is a detective tale, and then it goes deep into metaphysics, theology and medieval history. It is being enjoyed by a large number of audience. Were you puzzled at all by this?

Umberto Eco : No, the journalists are puzzled. We can even see that sometimes publishers also get puzzled because both believe that people like trash and do not like difficult reading experiences. Suppose there are six billion people in this planet and the novel is sold to 10 and 15 millions. Thus, I am getting only a small percentage of readers. Thus, these readers do not always want easy experiences. After dinner at 9.00 p.m., I watch television, and see ‘Miami Vice’, or Emergency Room. I enjoy it and I need it but not all day.

Mukund : Can you tell that how your novel has got a good success even if it deals with the medieval history?

Umberto Eco : That is possible. But I can tell you another story. My American publisher told she did not expect to sell more than 3000 copies in a country where some has seen a cathedral or studied Latin. So, I was given an advance for 3000 copies but in the end it sold two or three million in the U.S. So many books have been written about the medieval past but the book has a mysterious success. Nobody can predict it. If I had written it ten years earlier or later, it would not have been the same. Why it worked is a mystery? Thus, the novel The Name of the Rose has got a good success.

The Interview Main Characters in the Chapter

Mukund Padmanabhan

He is an interviewer from ‘The Hindu’ who interviews Umberto Eco after his huge success of the book he wrote.

Umberto Eco

He is the author of the popular novel, ‘Name of the Rose’. He is a University Professor. Writing novel is his hobby which he does only on Sundays. He had written 40 scholarly works of non-fiction and 5 novels. He always identified himself with the academic community, and never with writers or novelists.

The Interview Summary Reference-to-Context Questions

Read the following extracts and answer the questions that follow.

1. Some might make quite extravagant claims for it as being, in its highest form, a source of truth, and, in its practice, an art. Others, usually celebrities who see themselves as its victims, might despise the interview as an unwanted intrusion into their lives, or feel that it somehow diminishes them, just as in some primitive cultures it is believed that if one takes a photographic portrait of somebody then one is stealing that person’s soul.

a. What is ‘it’ referred here?
Here, ‘it’ is referred to interview.

b. How is ‘it’ described in the above lines?
The interview is described as the highest form, a source of truth and an art in its practice.

c. Who might despise the interview?
Celebrities who see themselves as its victim despise the interview.

d. Why do they despise?
Celebrities despise interview because they consider it as an unwanted intrusion into their lives.

2. Rudyard Kipling expressed an even more condemnatory attitude towards the interviewer. His wife, Caroline, writes in her diary for 14 October 1892 that their day was ‘wrecked by two reporters from Boston’. She reports her husband as saying to the reporters, “Why do I refuse to be interviewed? Because it is immoral!

a. What was the attitude of Rudyard Kipling towards the interviewer?
Rudyard Kipling expressed a condemnatory attitude towards the interviewer.

b. What happened on 14 October 1892?
On 14 October 1892, Rudyard Kipling and his wife’s day was wrecked by two reporters from Boston.

c. Where were the two reporters from?
The two reporters were from Boston.

d. Why did Rudyard Kipling refuse to be interviewed?
Rudyard Kipling refused to be interviewed because he considers it to be immoral.

3. H.G. Wells in ah interview in 1894 referred to ‘the interviewing ordeal’ but was a fairly frequent interviewee and forty years later found himself interviewing Joseph Stalin. Saul Bellow, who has consented to be interviewed on several occasions, nevertheless once described interviews as being like thumbprints in his windpipe.

a. What did H.G. Wells refer to in an interview in 1894?
In an interview in 1894, H.G. Wells referred to ‘the interviewing ordeal’.

b. Who was a frequent interviewee?
H.G. Wells was a frequent interviewee.

c. Who was H.G. Wells interviewing to after forty years?
After forty years, H.G. Wells was interviewing Joseph Stalin.

d. How did Saul Bellow once describe interviews?
Saul Bellow once described interviews as being like thumbprints in his windpipe.

4. Aah, now that is more difficult to explain. I have some philosophical interests and I pursue them through my academic work and my novels. Even my books for children are about non-violence and peace…you see, the same bunch of ethical, philosophical interests.

a. Who is the speaker of the above lines?
Umberto Eco is the speaker of the above lines.

b. Whom is the speaker speaking to?
The speaker is speaking to Mukund Padmanabhan, the interviewer.

c. How does the speaker pursue his philosophical interests?
He pursues his philosophical interests through his academic work and his novels.

d. What are his books for children about?
His books for children are about non-violence and peace.

5. This is why my essays always have a narrative aspect. And this is why probably I started writing narratives (novels) so late – at the age of 50, more or less. I remember that my friend Roland Barthes was always frustrated that he was an essayist and not a novelist. He wanted to do creative writing one day or another, but he died before he could do so.

a. Why did his essays have a narrative aspect?
His essays have a narrative aspect because he used to write in a way of telling stories.

b. When did Umberto Eco start writing novels?
He started writing novels at the age of 50, more or less.

c. Why was his friend Roland Barthes always frustrated?
Roland Barthes was always frustrated that he was an essayist and not a novelist.

d. What did his friend want to do?
His friend wanted to do creative writing.