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The Interview

By Christopher Silvester


Part - I
In this chapter, the writer talks about the pros and cons of the interview. It is an important part of
journalism. Several thousand celebrities have been interviewed over the years. Today, every literate
person will have read an interview at some point in their lives.

Some people consider ‘interview’ a reliable source of truth whereas most of the celebrities see it as an
unwarranted intrusion into their lives. V.S. Naipul feels that some people are wounded by interviews
and lose a part of themselves. Lewis Carroll, the creator of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ never consented to
be interviewed and had ‘a just horror of the interviewer’. Rudyard Kipling had a 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. Even they considered interview as a crime and assault. Some
of them feel that it diminishes them. Saul Bellow, though consented to be interviewed on several
occasions, once described interviews as being like thumbprints on his windpipe. Despite all these
drawbacks, the interview is a supremely serviceable medium of communication. We get most vivid
impressions of our contemporaries through interviews.

Part – II
It is an extract of an interview of Umberto Eco, taken by ‘Mukund Padmanabhan’ from ‘The Hindu’.
Umberto Eco was a professor at the University of Bologna in Italy. He had an expertise on Semiotics
(the study of signs), literary fictions, academic texts, newspaper articles and many others. Mukund
interviewed about Umberto’s versatility of managing too many things. Umberto revealed the mystery
and answered that he had discovered the way to use the empty spaces in his life. He could use every
single moment of his time. He had perfected the art of writing in a narrative style but applied it at about
the age of fifty. Accidently he became a novelist after moving from an essayist. He was more interested
in academics rather than the novels, so always considered himself as an academician and denoted
only Sundays for writing novels. Mukund also questioned about the serious theme of his novel ‘The
Name of the Rose’ that was widely appreciated and more than 10 million copies of this novel were sold
all over the world. It contained a detective surface but delved into theology, metaphysics and medieval
history. He had no point of amazement about the category of the readers. He was never sure about its
remarkable success. He assumed its huge success as a mystery which couldn’t be unfolded.

Part – I: Short Answer-Type Questions

Q1. In what way have the interviews become a common place of journalism?

Ans. Over the last 130 years, the interviews have become a commonplace of journalism. Almost
everybody will have read an interview at some point during their life time. Several thousand celebrities
have been interviewed over the years. It is a great serviceable medium of communication.

Q2. List some of the positive views on interviews.

Ans. Interviews have many positive aspects. It is an art and a source of truth. It is a supremely
serviceable medium of communication. We can get information about our contemporaries through

Q3. Why do most celebrity writers despise being interviewed?

Ans. They feel that it is an unwarranted intrusion into their lives. They also feel that the interview
diminishes them.

Q4. What is the belief in some of the primitive culture about being photographed?

Ans. Some primitive cultures believe that it is like stealing someone’s soul.

Q5. How does Rudyard Kipling condemn an Interview?

Ans. According to Rudyard Kipling, interview is immoral. It is a crime. It is just like an attack on
somebody. Hence, it is punishable. He adds that it is a cowardly and unpleasant act. No respectable
man should ask anybody to give interview.

Q6. What do you understand by the expression ‘thumbprints on his windpipe’?

Ans. Saul Bellow has described interview as being ‘thumbprints on his windpipe’. If somebody presses
our throat, our windpipe is choked and we cannot breathe properly. Similarly, he felt choked and
suffocated during the interviews.

Q7. How did Lewis Carroll react to the interviews?

Ans. Lewis Carrol had a horror of the interviewer and he never consented to give an interview. He
feared that an interview lionized a person and thus he kept himself away from acquaintances and
persistent autograph-seekers.

Q8. Why did Rudyard Kipling refuse to be interviewed?

Ans. Rudyard Kipling refused to give interviews because he considered the interview immoral and a
crime. He felt, it was an assault and merited punishment. In his opinion, no respectable man would ever
give an interview.

Part – II: Short Answer-Type Questions

Q1. “I am convinced that I am always doing the same thing,” says Eco. How does he explain it?

Ans. Eco says that he gives the impression of doing many things but he is doing the same things over
and over again. He explains by saying that he has some philosophical interests which he pursues
through his academic work and writing novels but even the books for children that he writes reflect the
same bunch of ethical and philosophical interests.

Q2. What is the secret of Umberto Eco’s working style?

Ans. Eco says there are empty spaces in our lives. He calls these empty spaces as ‘interstices or
intervals. He explains his style of working in empty spaces through an example. He tells when he waits
for somebody coming from the elevator from first to the third floor, he won’t sit idle. He utilizes these
intervals for his creative work.

Q3. What do you think were the distinguishing features of his novel ‘The Name of the Rose’?

Ans. It is a serious novel .Though it has a detective yarn on one level. It also delves deep into
metaphysics, theology and medieval history.

Q4. What is the reason for the huge success of ‘The Name of the Rose’?

Ans. The author never expected the huge success of his novel “The Name of the Rose”. He stated that
the timings when the book got released was a factor contributing to its grand success. He felt that if he
had written the novel ten years later or earlier, it wouldn’t have been the same. Perhaps it was written
at the most appropriate time. Despite all that the reason of its huge success is still a mystery.

Long Answer-Type Questions

Q1. Despite the drawbacks of an interview, it is a supremely serviceable medium of
communication. Highlight the importance, drawbacks and positive aspects of interviews.

Ans. The interview has become the commonplace of journalism. Opinions about the interview, its
functions, methods and merits vary considerably. Some say that it is a source of truth and some claim
it is an art. Celebrities think themselves as the victims of interviews despite being interviewed several
times. Lewis Carrol was said to have had a horror of the interviewer. Rudyard Kipling thought that it
was immoral and a crime to take interviews. Saul Bellow who had consented to be interviewed on
several occasions described interview as being like thumbprints on his windpipe.

Despite the drawbacks, it is a supremely serviceable medium of communication. Denise Brian has
written that almost everything of moment reaches us through one man asking questions of another. We
can get information about our contemporaries through interviews.

Q2. What impression do you form about Umberto Eco as a scholar and writer?

Ans. Umberto Eco as we gather on the basis of “The Interview” was an academician who wrote novels
on Sundays. He said that he was not a novelist, but the novel fulfilled his desire for narration. Writing
enabled him to reach a larger audience. His creative ideas flow in his mind every time. Though he
relaxes on Sundays, yet he remains busy writing novels. On other days, he occupies himself with his
academic Work. His novel ‘The Name of the Rose’ became an instant success because of the timing
around which it was released. He himself admitted that the success of the book remained a mystery to
him too, it might not have sold so well at another time.

Q3. What was distinctive about Eco’s academic writing style?

Ans. The themes of Eco’s academic works and novels are chiefly dominated by his philosophy and
ethics about life. His scholarly work has a certain playful and personal quality about it. It’s a marked
departure from a regular style. Even his writing for children deals with non- violence and peace. This
style of writing makes reading his novels and essays interesting and being like the reading of most
academic writings. His works are marked by an informal and narrative aspect. His professors who
examined and evaluated his first dissertation also said that he told the story of his research, too,
including his trials and errors. At the age of 22, he understood that the scholarly books should be written
by telling the story of the research. His essays therefore have a narrative aspect. That is what made
him write novels as it satisfied his taste for narrative.