The following is an excerpt taken from Christopher Silvester’s introduction to the Penguin Book of Interviews.
Interview that was invented over 130 years have now become a commonplace journalism. Today, every literate or illiterate will have to experience interview at some point of the daily life.
However, opinions of interview- of its functions, methods and merits vary considerably. Some claim it as a source of truth and in its practise, an art. Others despise the interview as an ‘unwarranted intrusion into their lives’. They feel that it diminishes them. Silvester lists out well-known writers who are against interview – V.S. Naipaul, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells – though he had interviewed many personalities.
It is surprising to notice that as interviewer, each one is comfortable, whereas, as an interviewee, he feels it much disturbing and diminishing. Yet in the words of the writer, ‘it is a serviceable medium communication’.
It is an extract from an interview of Umberto Eco by Mukund Padmanabhan from ‘The Hindu’. Umberto Eco is the author of the popular novel, named ‘Name of the Rose’. This interview helps us know many aspects of his writing style and ideas. Though he gives the impression of doing many things at a time, he says he is doing the same thing, pursuing his philosophical interests through his writings and his novels. Through his modest answers, he tells the secret of his success. He utilizes the interstices – empty spaces to his advantage.
He refers himself to be called an academician. He has written 40 philosophical writings and just 5 novels. When Mukund Padmanabhan asks the reason behind the huge success of ‘The Name of the Rose’, he honestly replies that it is a mystery even to him. Perhaps the appropriateness of the time it was written could be the reason. He himself admits if the novel had come 10 years later or earlier, the novel would not have got such success.
As we go through this extract, we can easily note that Umberto Eco does not think, interview is a crime or an offense. He interacts properly and modestly.