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Modern Writers | Interviews with remarkable authors

About this collection

Great writers have always fascinated their readers. We want to know how they create the characters we love or hate, the evocative settings, and the plots that have us reading late into the night, desperate to know what happens next.

Throughout its history, the BBC has aimed to help audiences delve into the imagination of writers. This collection of interviews with some of the 20th Century's most read authors reveals something of those imaginations and the personalities which lie behind some of the greatest modern novels.

Modern Writers Collection

Virginia Woolf.

Words Fail Me

Virginia Woolf

BROADCAST 1937
8 MINUTES

Virginia Woolf describes the mysterious demands and duplicity of words.

W Somerset Maugham.

Panorama

W Somerset Maugham

BROADCAST 1954
11 MINUTES

Malcolm Muggeridge quizzes Somerset Maugham on his top ten novels.

Elizabeth Bowen.

Truth and Fiction

Elizabeth Bowen

BROADCAST 1956
11 MINUTES

The importance of creating strong characters in fiction.

Kingsley Amis.

Monitor

Kingsley Amis

BROADCAST 1958
5 MINUTES

The writer ponders the success of 'Lucky Jim' and his latest novels.

Aldous Huxley.

Monitor

Aldous Huxley

BROADCAST 1958
12 MINUTES

John Lehmann explores the 'brave new world' of Aldous Huxley.

PG Wodehouse.

Monitor

PG Wodehouse

BROADCAST 1958
7 MINUTES

The creator of Jeeves and Wooster talks about his writing life.

EM Forster.

Monitor

EM Forster

BROADCAST 1958
7 MINUTES

EM Forster, in Cambridge, reflects on his life and work.

TH White.

Monitor

TH White in Alderney

BROADCAST 1959
21 MINUTES

Arthurian legend and English traditions explored.

William Golding.

Monitor

William Golding

BROADCAST 1959
17 MINUTES

The author of 'Lord of the Flies' discusses his work and influences.

Christopher Isherwood.

Monitor

Christopher Isherwood

BROADCAST 1959
11 MINUTES

'I'm a person who rather thrives on being a foreigner.'

John Wyndham.

Tonight

John Wyndham

BROADCAST 1960
7 MINUTES

John Wyndham discusses the nature of evil in his novels.

Iris Murdoch.

Modern Novelists

Iris Murdoch

BROADCAST 1965
25 MINUTES

Debating the artistic conflict between freedom and form.

Lawrence Durrell in 1976.

Intimations

Lawrence Durrell

BROADCAST 1965
30 MINUTES

Strong opinions from the author of 'The Alexandria Quartet'.

Robert Graves.

Intimations

Robert Graves

BROADCAST 1965
30 MINUTES

The author of 'I, Claudius' converses with Malcolm Muggeridge.

John le Carre.

Intimations

John le Carre

BROADCAST 1966
27 MINUTES

The false and lonely world of the writer.

Margaret Drabble.

One Pair of Eyes

Margaret Drabble

BROADCAST 1968
44 MINUTES

A portrait of the artist as a young woman.

JRR Tolkien.

Release

JRR Tolkien

BROADCAST 1968
27 MINUTES

The views of the author and Oxford's students on Tolkien's Middle-earth epics.

Daphne du Maurier.

Summer Season

Daphne du Maurier

BROADCAST 1971
49 MINUTES

A rare interview with Daphne du Maurier.

John Braine.

One Pair of Eyes

John Braine - The Magic is Here and Now

BROADCAST 1971
45 MINUTES

Braine's passionate defence of the ordinary and the suburban.

Muriel Spark.

Scope

Muriel Spark

BROADCAST 1971
30 MINUTES

Muriel Spark talks to W Gordon Smith at her elegant home in Rome.

Jean Rhys.

Bookcase

Jean Rhys

BROADCAST 1973
7 MINUTES

Truth and sadness in fiction.

Rebecca West pictured in 1942.

Tonight

Rebecca West

BROADCAST 1976
19 MINUTES

The novelist, journalist, literary critic and feminist talks about her life and loves.

John Fowles pictured in 1987.

Lively Arts

John Fowles

BROADCAST 1977
55 MINUTES

Melvyn Bragg talks to John Fowles at his home in Lyme Regis.

Len Deighton.

The Lively Arts

Len Deighton

BROADCAST 1977
45 MINUTES

Melvyn Bragg meets the author of 'The Ipcress File'.

Ian McEwan.

The Book Programme

Ian McEwan

BROADCAST 1979
29 MINUTES

Moving on from short stories to novels.

Doris Lessing.

Doris Lessing

BROADCAST 1980
30 MINUTES

Doris Lessing describes a life spent in unwilling judgement of civilisation's flaws.

Beryl Bainbridge.

Motives

Beryl Bainbridge

BROADCAST 1983
39 MINUTES

Can Dr Anthony Clare cure Beryl Bainbridge's case of writer's block?

Keith Waterhouse.

In Conversation

Keith Waterhouse

BROADCAST 1985
30 MINUTES

Paul Allen speaks to the creator of 'Billy Liar'.

Anthony Burgess.

Late Show: Face to Face

Anthony Burgess

BROADCAST 1989
30 MINUTES

The emotional forces driving the work of Anthony Burgess.

JG Ballard.

Late Show: Face to Face

JG Ballard

BROADCAST 1989
29 MINUTES

Studying the secrets revealed by tragedy.

Angela Carter.

Third Ear

Angela Carter

BROADCAST 1991
25 MINUTES

Refusing to write about the bourgeoisie and their cleaning ladies.

Martin Amis.

Late Show: Face to Face

Martin Amis

BROADCAST 1993
38 MINUTES

The making of a modern novelist.

VS Naipaul.

Late Show: Face to Face

VS Naipaul

BROADCAST 1994
40 MINUTES

The perception and scrutiny that drive a great writer.

Jeanette Winterson.

Late Show: Face to Face

Jeanette Winterson

BROADCAST 1994
38 MINUTES

Jeanette Winterson talks openly to Jeremy Isaacs.

Hilary Mantel.

Woman's Hour

Hilary Mantel

BROADCAST 1995
10 MINUTES

'The novelist of her generation who will last.'

John Berger.

Late Show: Face to Face

John Berger

BROADCAST 1995
40 MINUTES

The Booker Prize-winner and art critic discusses his work.

The novelist Margaret Atwood.

Newsnight

Margaret Atwood

BROADCAST 2000
10 MINUTES

The Booker Prize-winning novelist discusses her work.

Penelope Lively.

Book Club

Penelope Lively

BROADCAST 2001
28 MINUTES

The author of 'Moon Tiger' discusses her work.

Sebastian Faulks.

The Brian Morton Show

Sebastian Faulks

BROADCAST 2001
45 MINUTES

A wide-ranging interview with the author of 'Birdsong'.

Philip Pullman.

Profile

The World of Philip Pullman

BROADCAST 2001
39 MINUTES

Philip Pullman explains 'His Dark Materials'.

Salman Rushdie.

Book Club

Salman Rushdie

BROADCAST 2003
28 MINUTES

James Naughtie speaks to Salman Rushdie about 'Midnight's Children'.

Yann Martel.

Cover Stories

Yann Martel

BROADCAST 2003
15 MINUTES

Yann Martel speaks about his award-winning book 'Life of Pi'.

Pat Barker.

Open Book

Pat Barker

BROADCAST 2003
27 MINUTES

The author of 'The Regeneration Trilogy' talks about her books.

Toni Morrison.

Toni Morrison Talks to Kirsty Wark

BROADCAST 2003
59 MINUTES

A wide-ranging interview with the Nobel Prize-winning author of 'Beloved'.

Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Culture Show

Kazuo Ishiguro

BROADCAST 2005
7 MINUTES

Andrew Marr interviews Kazuo Ishiguro.

Hanif Kureishi.

Book Club

Hanif Kureishi

BROADCAST 2005
27 MINUTES

The novelist discusses 'The Buddha of Suburbia'.

The author Marian Keyes.

Stark Talk

Marian Keyes

BROADCAST 2006
26 MINUTES

The 'chick-lit' writer talks frankly about her life and career.

Monica Ali.

Front Row

Monica Ali

BROADCAST 2006
8 MINUTES

The author of 'Brick Lane' on sudden success and the myth of the difficult second novel.

David Mitchell.

The Culture Show

David Mitchell

BROADCAST 2007
7 MINUTES

Zina Saro-Wiwa interviews writer David Mitchell.

Zoe Heller.

Night Waves

Zoe Heller

BROADCAST 2008
10 MINUTES

The author of 'Notes on a Scandal' discusses what fiction is all about.

Zadie Smith.

Night Waves

Zadie Smith

BROADCAST 2009
22 MINUTES

Philip Dodd speaks to Zadie Smith, author of 'White Teeth'.

Alan Bennett.

Mark Lawson Talks to

Alan Bennett

BROADCAST 2009
59 MINUTES

The writer looks back over his life and prolific career.

AS Byatt.

Mark Lawson Talks to

AS Byatt

BROADCAST 2009
59 MINUTES

The author discusses why thinking matters just as much as feeling.

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