• Isabelle Osborne

Authors: who would I most like to interview as a journalist?

As an aspiring journalist, I often think about who I would like to interview and why, from politicians to authors, activists to historic figures. Some of the people I would like to interview are no longer alive, whilst some remain at the forefront of media attention today.

As a student of English Literature, it is not a secret that I love to read and am thoroughly interested in literature of all eras and genres. Behind every literary masterpiece is a masterful author, who tends to reflect their own background and experiences within their work. I often find a sense of shared escapism within the novels I read. Below I explain which authors and literary figures, if given free choice, would I interview, my reasons why, and what I would ask them.

William Shakespeare

Arguably one of the greatest figures in literary history, William Shakespeare was a mastermind of the English language and his work remains as remarkable today as it did then. I am fascinated by Shakespeare's childhood and how he came from a humble background, as I feel he is a mouthpiece for the present day competition between the classes and stands as an example for how people can achieve anything regardless of background and upbringing. In addition, I am interested in how the plague pandemic affected his work (perhaps sparked by the current pandemic the world is facing at present). Was he more creative during quarantine? Was his work reflective of the situation England was facing?

Virginia Woolf

Often associated with the Modernist Era, Virginia Woolf is a powerhouse of literary talent. Having read A Room of One's Own (which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt truly inspired afterwards) and Mrs Dalloway (within which Woolf's exploration of the female mind and the disillusionment of the British Empire intrigued me), I believe Woolf's work captures the changing face of literature as we move into the 20th Century. I am most interested in Woolf's childhood - she suffered several nervous breakdowns, which are often attributed to the deaths of her mother and half-sister when she was thirteen and fifteen respectively. I would ask her whether she feels her writing was informed by her experiences of death at such a young age, or whether she found solace in writing of female empowerment.

George Orwell

What I love about Orwell's work is that it so brilliantly captures the time he was writing and, in my opinion, predicts what was to happen to our world in years to come. In a time of growing political uncertainty in light of the Russian Revolution of 1917, World War II and the US-Soviet Union crisis following the war, Orwell perceived totalitarian terror and the falsification of history by the state to capture what the world around him was becoming. Through his masterpiece 1984, he gives us a psychological insight into the totalitarian oppressor, whilst Animal Farm provides a satirical outlook on the Russian Revolution through reducing its communist forerunners as farm animals. He wrote to tell the truth, a truth that was largely suppressed. I would ask him whether, without his experience as a policeman in Burma and of the Spanish Civil War, whether he would have been as inspired to write the novels he did with the surrounding context.

Toni Morrison

I consider Toni Morrison to be one of the greatest writers of all time. She has produced some of the most remarkable pieces of literature, my favourite being Beloved, a harrowing account of slavery in America that I have been privileged enough to enjoy at both A-Level and Degree study. I recently saw a documentary on Morrison and her career at The Brunswick Dochouse in London, which really opened my eyes to the opposition she continued to face through different points in her career before she sadly passed away - I urge everyone to watch it if it is ever showcased anywhere else. I would consider it a great honour to interview someone of the same brilliance as Morrison, and would have wanted to focus on whether she felt her writing has assisted the liberation of the African-American mind and their collective healing after generations of terrible suffering, whilst simultaneously allowing the perpetrators of racism in America and across the world to understand the effect their ancestor's actions had on her community.

Margaret Atwood

I have only read one of her novels (The Handmaid's Tale, of course), but I am only aware of the global reception Margaret Atwood's work has achieved. I loved Handmaid’s, a novel that draws upon a woman's experience in a repressive Christian theocracy. She is known for using real events as inspiration for her particularly complex and subtly psychological novels, and I plan to read more of her work in the future. I would love to ask Atwood whether she feels the dystopias she has created are reflective of the world as it is today, and if this is the case, whether she feels we can use her literature to learn more about ourselves. I would also ask why she writes - is it for commercial success, critical acclaim, or is there something deeper to her craft, like teaching lessons to a corrupt world, or expressing her inner experiences and outer perceptions? I often wonder whether Atwood's fictional creations have the power to come true in our world.

In the next instalment of this mini series, 'Who would I most like to interview as a journalist?', I consider the activists I would most like to interview and why.

Featured image courtesy of Susan Q Yin on Unsplash. Image license can be found here. No changes were made to this image.

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