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The Interview: Christopher Silvester

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

Lesson Architecture

Introduction:

  • This chapter defines beautifully the concept of interviews, their purpose, functions, methods and merits in part one.

  • In part two it 'illustrates' these through an interview with the famous novelist Umberto Eco who authored 'The Name of the Rose.

  • The interviewer Mukund Padmanabhan from The Hindu' interviews the famous novelist. Reading both the questions and answers given in it enables the reader to peep into the minds of both the persons.

  • At the same time it enables him to assess for himself this concept and how it has been illustrated here.

  • It also enables him to know more about the author of The Name of the Rose who writes on Sundays.



Text | Para 1 ( line 1-6) | Page 68

Since its invention a little over 130 years ago, the interview has become a commonplace of journalism. Today, almost everybody who is literate will have read an interview at some point in their lives, while from the other point of view, several thousand celebrities have been interviewed over the years, some of them repeatedly.


Translation :


An interview is something that has been around for about 130 years. It's a regular thing in journalism. Almost everyone who can read has seen or read an interview at some time in their life. And lots of famous people have been interviewed many times over the years.


Text | Para 1 ( line 6-10) | Page 68


So it is hardly surprising that opinions of the interview — of its functions, methods and merits — vary considerably. Some might make quite extravagant claims for it as being, in its highest form, a source of truth, and, in its practice, an art.


Translation :

It's not surprising that people have different opinions about interviews – what they're for, how they're done, and their value. Some people might say that interviews, when done really well, can provide valuable information and are a form of art.


Text | Para 1 ( line 11-26) | Page 68-69


Others, usually celebrities who see themselves as its victims, might despise the interview as an unwarranted 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. V. S. Naipaul 1 ‘feels that some people are wounded by interviews and lose a part of themselves,’ Lewis Carroll, the creator of Alice in Wonderland, was said to have had ‘a just horror of the interviewer’ and he never consented to be interviewed was his horror of being lionized which made him thus repel would be acquaintances, interviewers, and the persistent petitioners for his autograph and he would afterwards relate the stories of his success in silencing all such people with much satisfaction and amusement.



Translation :

Some people, especially famous ones, may really dislike interviews. They might feel that interviews invade their privacy or make them look less important. It's similar to some old beliefs in certain cultures that taking a photo of someone steals their soul. For example, the writer V. S. Naipaul thought that interviews could harm people, and Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in Wonderland, was known to be very afraid of interviewers. He never agreed to be interviewed because he didn't want to be treated like a celebrity. He enjoyed telling stories about how he cleverly avoided interviews, autograph seekers, and people who wanted to make him famous.





Text | Para 1 ( line 1-12) | Page 69


Rudyard Kipling2 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! It is a crime, just as much of a crime as an offence against my person, as an assault, and just as much merits punishment.


Translation :


Rudyard Kipling had a very negative view of interviewers. His wife, Caroline, wrote in her diary on October 14, 1892, that their day was ruined by two reporters from Boston. According to her, Kipling told the reporters that he refused to be interviewed because he considered it immoral. He thought it was as bad as a crime against him, like an assault, and should be punished just like a crime.


Text | Para 1 ( line 13-25) | Page 69


It is cowardly and vile. No respectable man would ask it, much less give it,” Yet Kipling had himself perpetrated such an ‘assault’ on Mark Twain only a few years before. H. G. Wells3 in an interview in 1894 referred to ‘the interviewing ordeal’, but was a fairly frequent interviewee and forty years later found himself interviewing Joseph Stalin4 . Saul Bellow5 , who has consented to be interviewed on several occasions, nevertheless once described interviews as being like thumbprints on his windpipe.


Translation :

Kipling strongly believed that interviewing was a cowardly and vile act. He thought it was unacceptable for anyone to request or give an interview. However, it's interesting to note that Kipling had interviewed Mark Twain a few years before, which seems contradictory.


H. G. Wells, in an interview in 1894, talked about how difficult and unpleasant the process of being interviewed could be, but he was often interviewed himself. He even found himself interviewing Joseph Stalin forty years later.


Saul Bellow, despite agreeing to be interviewed on several occasions, once compared interviews to thumbprints on his windpipe, suggesting that they were uncomfortable or suffocating experiences for him.


Text | Para 1 ( line 25-32) | Page 69


Yet despite the drawbacks of the interview, it is a supremely serviceable medium of communication. “These days, more than at any other time, our most vivid impressions of our contemporaries are through


Translation :


Despite the challenges of interviews, they are a very useful way to communicate. In fact, nowadays, we often get to know and understand people through interviews more than ever before.



Text | Para 1 ( line 1-4) | Page 70


interviews,” Denis Brian has written. “Almost everything of moment reaches us through one man asking questions of another. Because of this, the interviewer holds a position of unprecedented power and influence.”


Translation :


Denis Brian has explained that interviews play a crucial role in how we learn about important events and people. Most significant information comes to us through one person asking questions to another. Because of this, the person conducting the interview has an exceptionally powerful and influential position.



Part II


Text | Para 1 ( line 1-13) | Page 70


“I am a professor who writes novels on Sundays” – Umberto Eco


The following is an extract from an interview of Umberto Eco. The interviewer is Mukund Padmanabhan from The Hindu. Umberto Eco, a professor at the University of Bologna in Italy had already acquired a formidable reputation as a scholar for his ideas on semiotics (the study of signs), literary interpretation, and medieval aesthetics before he turned to writing fiction. Literary fiction, academic texts, essays, children’s books, newspaper articles— his written output is staggeringly large and wide-ranging, In 1980, he acquired the equivalent of intellectual superstardom with the publication of The Name of the Rose, which sold more than 10 million copies.


Translation :

In this interview, Umberto Eco, a professor at the University of Bologna in Italy, is being interviewed by Mukund Padmanabhan from The Hindu. Before becoming a fiction writer, Eco had a strong reputation as a scholar in fields like semiotics (the study of signs), literary interpretation, and medieval aesthetics. He wrote a wide variety of works, including literary fiction, academic texts, essays, children's books, and newspaper articles. In 1980, he reached great intellectual fame with the release of "The Name of the Rose," which sold over 10 million copies.


Text | Para 1 ( line 14-30) | Page 70


Mukund: The English novelist and academic David Lodge once remarked, “I can’t understand how one man can do all the things he [Eco] does.”


Umberto Eco: Maybe I give the impression of doing many things. But in the end, I am convinced I am always doing the same thing.


Mukund: Which is?


Umberto Eco: 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.


And then I have a secret. Did you know what will happen if you eliminate the empty spaces from the universe, eliminate the empty spaces in all the atoms? The universe will become as big as my fist.


Translation :


Mukund: The English novelist and academic David Lodge once remarked, "I can't understand how one man can do all the things he [Eco] does."


Umberto Eco: Maybe I seem like I'm doing many things, but in the end, I believe I'm always doing the same thing.


Mukund: Which is?


Umberto Eco: Well, that's a bit harder to explain. I have certain philosophical interests, and I explore them in my academic work and my novels. Even my children's books focus on ideas of non-violence and peace... you see, it all centers around the same set of ethical and philosophical interests.


And then I have a little secret. Do you know what would happen if you removed all the empty spaces from the universe, from all the atoms? The universe would be as small as my fist.


Text | Para 1 ( line 1-8 | Page 71)


Similarly, we have a lot of empty spaces in our lives. I call them interstices. Say you are coming over to my place. You are in an elevator and while you are coming up, I am waiting for you. This is an interstice, an empty space. I work in empty spaces. While waiting for your elevator to come up from the first to the third floor, I have already written an article! (Laughs)


Translation:


Likewise, in our lives, there are many empty spaces. I like to call them "interstices." For example, let's say you're coming to visit me. You're in an elevator on your way up, and I'm waiting for you. That moment is an interstice, an empty space. I use these empty spaces in my life. While I wait for your elevator to go from the first floor to the third floor, I've managed to write an entire article! (Laughs)


Text | Para 1 ( line 9-16 | Page 71)


Mukund: Not everyone can do that of course. Your non-fictional writing, your scholarly work has a certain playful and personal quality about it. It is a marked departure from a regular academic style — which is invariably depersonalised and often dry and boring. Have you consciously adopted an informal approach or is it something that just came naturally to you?


Translation:


Mukund: Not everyone can achieve that, of course. Your non-fiction writing and scholarly work have a distinct playful and personal quality. It's quite different from the usual academic style, which tends to be impersonal and often dull. Did you intentionally choose to write in an informal way, or did it come naturally to you?


Text | Para 1 ( line 17-25 | Page 71)


Umberto Eco: When I presented my first Doctoral dissertation in Italy, one of the Professors said, “Scholars learn a lot of a certain subject, then they make a lot of false hypotheses, then they correct them and at the end, they put the conclusions. You, on the contrary, told the story of your research. Even including your trials and errors.” At the same time, he recognised I was right and went on to publish my dissertation as a book, which meant he appreciated it.


Translation:


Umberto Eco: When I presented my first doctoral dissertation in Italy, one of the professors commented, "Scholars typically gather a lot of knowledge about a particular subject, make numerous incorrect hypotheses, correct them, and then present their conclusions. However, you told the story of your research, including your trials and errors." He acknowledged that I had a different approach and later published my dissertation as a book, which indicated his appreciation for it.


Text | Para 1 ( line 26-31 | Page 71)


At that point, at the age of 22, I understood scholarly books should be written the way I had done — by telling the story of the research. 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.


Translation:


At the age of 22, I realized that scholarly books should be written in the way I had done, by narrating the research process. This is why my essays often have a narrative quality. It's also probably why I didn't start writing fiction (novels) until much later, around the age of 50.


Text | Para 1 ( line 32-37 | Page 71)


I remember that my dear 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. I never felt this kind of frustration. I started writing novels by accident. I had nothing to do one day and so I started. Novels probably satisfied my taste for narration.


Text | Para 1 ( line 1-8 | Page 72)


Mukund: Talking about novels, from being a famous academic you went on to becoming spectacularly famous after the publication of The Name of the Rose. You’ve written five novels against many more scholarly works of non-fiction, at least more than 20 of them...


Translation:

I remember my dear friend Roland Barthes used to feel frustrated because he was an essayist and not a novelist. He wished to try creative writing at some point, but unfortunately, he passed away before he could do so. I didn't experience the same frustration. I began writing novels by chance. I had some free time, and it just happened. I had some free time one day, so I decided to start writing novels. Novels seemed to fulfill my love for storytelling.


Mukund: Speaking of novels, you went from being a renowned academic to achieving spectacular fame after "The Name of the Rose" was published. You've written five novels, while you have many more scholarly non-fiction works, at least over 20 of them...


Text | Para 1 ( line 1-8 | Page 72)


Umberto Eco: Over 40. Mukund: Over 40! Among them a seminal piece of work on semiotics. But ask most people about Umberto Eco and they will say, “Oh, he’s the novelist.” Does that bother you?


Translation:


Umberto Eco: Actually, it's more than 40.


Mukund: Over 40! That's quite impressive. Among them is a groundbreaking work on semiotics. But if you ask most people about Umberto Eco, they'll probably say, "Oh, he's the novelist." Does that ever bother you?


Text | Para 1 ( line 9-13 | Page 72)


Umberto Eco: Over 40.


Mukund: Over 40! Among them a seminal piece of work on semiotics. But ask most people about Umberto Eco and they will say, “Oh, he’s the novelist.” Does that bother you?


Translation:

Umberto Eco: Actually, it's more than 40.


Mukund: Over 40! That's quite impressive. Among them is a groundbreaking work on semiotics. But if you ask most people about Umberto Eco, they'll probably say, "Oh, he's the novelist." Does that ever bother you?


Text | Para 1 ( line 14-22 | Page 72)


Umberto Eco: Yes. Because I consider myself a university professor who writes novels on Sundays. It’s not a joke. I participate in academic conferences and not meetings of Pen Clubs and writers. I identify myself with the academic community.


But okay, if they [most people] have read only the novels... (laughs and shrugs). I know that by writing novels, I reach a larger audience. I cannot expect to have one million readers with stuff on semiotics.


Translation:


Umberto Eco : Yes, it does bother me. I see myself as a university professor who happens to write novels on Sundays. It's not a joke. I engage in academic conferences, not gatherings of Pen Clubs and writers. My identity is more aligned with the academic community.


But well, if most people have only read my novels... (laughs and shrugs). I understand that through novels, I reach a broader audience. I can't expect to have a million readers for works on semiotics.


Text | Para 1 ( line 23-28 | Page 72)


Mukund: Which brings me to my next question. The Name of the Rose is a very serious novel. It’s a detective yarn at one level but it also delves into metaphysics, theology, and medieval history. Yet it enjoyed a huge mass audience. Were you puzzled at all by this?


Translation:


Mukund: That leads me to my next question. "The Name of the Rose" is a very profound novel. It's a detective story on one level, but it also explores metaphysics, theology, and medieval history. Yet, it gained a massive popular following. Were you ever perplexed by this?


Text | Para 1 ( line 29-35 | Page 72/Line 5-6 |Page73)


Umberto Eco: No. Journalists are puzzled. And sometimes publishers. And this is because journalists and publishers believe that people like trash and don’t like difficult reading experiences. Consider there are six billion people on this planet. The Name of the Rose sold between 10 and 15 million copies. So in a way I reached only a small percentage of readers. But it is exactly these kinds of readers who don’t want easy experiences. Or at least don’t always want this. I myself, at 9 pm after dinner, watch television and want to see either ‘Miami Vice’ or ‘Emergency Room’. I enjoy it and I need it. But not all day.


Translation:


Umberto Eco: No, I wasn't puzzled. Journalists and sometimes publishers might be puzzled. This is because they tend to think that people prefer shallow, easy-to-read material and don't like challenging books. However, there are about six billion people on this planet. "The Name of the Rose" sold between 10 and 15 million copies, which means I reached only a small percentage of readers. But it's precisely this group of readers who appreciate more complex experiences. They don't always want something easy. I can relate to this personally. After dinner, at 9 pm, I watch television and enjoy shows like 'Miami Vice' or 'Emergency Room.' I need that relaxation, but not all day long.


Text | Para 1 (Line 5-6 |Page73)


percentage of readers. But it is exactly these kinds of readers who don’t want easy experiences. Or at least don’t always want this. I myself, at 9 pm after dinner, watch television and want to see either ‘Miami Vice’ or ‘Emergency Room’. I enjoy it and I need it. But not all day.


Translation:


These are precisely the readers who don't seek easy experiences all the time. Even I, after dinner, at 9 pm, like to watch television shows like 'Miami Vice' or 'Emergency Room.' I find enjoyment and relaxation in them, but I don't want that kind of content all day.


Text | Para 1 (Line 7-9 |Page73)


Mukund: Could the huge success of the novel have anything to do with the fact that it dealt with a period of medieval history that..


Translation:


Mukund: Do you think the novel's immense success could be related to its focus on a specific period of medieval history that...


Text | Para 1 (Line 10-17 |Page73)


Umberto Eco: That’s possible. But let me tell you another story, because I often tell stories like a Chinese wise man. My American publisher said while she loved my book, she didn’t expect to sell more than 3,000 copies in a country where nobody has seen a cathedral or studies Latin. So I was given an advance for 3,000 copies, but in the end it sold two or three million in the U.S


Translation:


Umberto Eco: It's certainly possible. But let me share another story, as I often do, like a Chinese wise man. My American publisher told me that while she loved my book, she didn't anticipate selling more than 3,000 copies in a country where not many people had seen a cathedral or studied Latin. So I received an advance for 3,000 copies, but in the end, it sold two or three million copies in the U.S.


Text | Para 1 (Line 18-23 |Page73)


A lot of books have been written about the medieval past far before mine. I think the success of the book is a mystery. Nobody can predict it. I think if I had written The Name of the Rose ten years earlier or ten years later, it wouldn’t have been the same. Why it worked at that time is a mystery.


Translation:


Many books about the medieval past were written before mine. I believe the success of the book is a mystery. It's something no one can really predict. If I had written "The Name of the Rose" ten years earlier or ten years later, I don't think it would have had the same impact. The reasons it worked at that specific time remain a mystery.



 



Multiple Choice Questions


Q1. According to Christopher Silvester, the interview can be “in its highest form, a source of truth”. Choose the option that does NOT enable this?


(a) An interview allows for discovery of new knowledge about the interviewee and/ or the subject being discussed.

(b) An interview enables the interviewer to probe deeply, seek clarifications, and confirm understandings.

(c) An interview represents an opportunity to open doors to experiences that may not otherwise find a voice.

(d) An interview requires the interviewer to have in-depth prior knowledge of the interviewee and the subject. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]


Ans. (d) An interview requires the interviewer to have in-depth prior knowledge of the interviewee and the subject.

Explanation: Options (a), (b) and (c) all enable the interview to be a source of truth. Hence, they are not the correct answers. Only option (d) talks about researching before the interview. So, option (d) is the correct answer.


Q2. Umberto Eco mentioned that he was not puzzled by the tremendous mass popularity of his novel, The Name of the Rose. What does this tell you about Umberto Eco?


(a) He believes she understands readership trends well, and writes accordingly to ensure mass appeal.

(b) He elevates himself above publishers and journalists who were surprised by the success of the book.

(c) He respects and understands that there are variations in people’s reading choices and experiences.

(d) He feels that the success of a book is a mystery, and there was no point pondering over it. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]


Ans. (d) He feels that the success of a book is a mystery, and there was no point pondering over it.


Explanation: This tells that Umberto Eco did not think there was any point talking about something that was a mystery. Hence, option (d) is the correct answer. Options (a), (b) and (c) are incorrect conclusions. So, they are incorrect.




3. What makes Christopher Silvester qualified to write the introduction to the Penguin Book of Interviews?

(a) He had written many introductions before.

(b) He had written features for Vanity Fair.

(c) He was a student of history at Cambridge.

(d) He was a reporter for Private Eye for ten years.


Ans. (d) He was a reporter for Private Eye for ten years.

Explanation: Being a reporter for a magazine means asking questions and interviewing people. So, Silvester had interviewed many people in ten years. Hence, option (d) is the correct answer. Option (a) cannot be found in the text. Options (b) and (c) are facts but do not directly impact the task of writing an introduction. So, they are incorrect.

4. How well was the interview known all over the world? What can be inferred from the text?

(a) Fairly well known

(b) Fairly known

(c) Somewhat known

(d) Not known at all


5. Choose the quote that best describes Silvester’s introduction in the Penguin Book of Interviews.

(a) I try to see interviewing as a performance art and just take it as it comes. —Liz Phair

(b) The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. —Thomas Berger

(c) Confidence has a lot to do with interviewing — that and timing. —Michael Parkinson

(d) When you're interviewing someone, you're in control. When you're being interviewed, you think you're in control, but you're not. —Barbara Walters


Ans. (b) The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. — Thomas Berger Explanation: All the quotes talk about the interview but only one talks about it being the source of knowledge as mentioned in the introduction. Hence, option (b) is the correct answer.





6. What can be inferred to be the writer’s own opinion on the function of the interview?

(a) That it lies only between the interviewer and the interviewee.

(b) That different people have varying opinions about the interview.

(c) That it lies somewhere in between being ‘a source of truth’ and ‘art’.

(d) That it has become a common place of journalism in the past 130 years.


Ans. (c) That it lies somewhere in between ‘a source of truth’ and ‘art’.

Explanation: The author says that the interview was ‘a source of truth’ and ‘in practice, an art’ which he considered quite an extravagant claim. Hence, it can be inferred that his opinion would lie in between the two. So, option (c) is the correct answer.


7. Choose the authors who never consented to an interview.

(1) V.S. Naipaul

(2) Lewis Carroll

(3) Rudyard Kipling

(4) Mark Twain

(5) H. G. Wells

(6) Joseph Stalin

(a) (1) and (2)

(b) (2) and (3)

(c) (4) and (5)

(d) (5) and (6)


Ans. (b) (2) and (3)

Explanation: According to Silvester, Lewis Carroll had a horror of being interviewed so he refused to be interviewed and Rudyard Kipling thought it was immoral and required a punishment. So, option (b) is the correct answer. The authors in options (a), (c) and (d) have consented to being interviewed even if they didn’t like it. Hence, these options are incorrect.




Extract Questions:


1. Saul Bellow, who has consented to be interviewed on several occasions, nevertheless once described interviews as being like thumbprints on his windpipe. Yet despite the drawbacks of the interview, it is a supremely serviceable medium of communication. “These days, more than at any other time, our most vivid impressions of our contemporaries are through interviews,” Denis Brian has written. “Almost everything of moment reaches us through one man asking questions of another. Because of this, the interviewer holds a position of unprecedented power and influence.”

(A) How would you describe Denis Brian’s opinion on interviews? Choose the most appropriate option.

(1) appeasing (2) utilitarian (3) approving (4) praising

(a) (1) and (2)

(b) (3) and (4)

(c) (2) and (3)

(d) (1) and (4)

Ans: (c) (2) and (3)

Explanation: Denis Brian thinks the interviews serve a purpose so that makes it utilitarian and his tone is approving. So, option (c) is the correct answer. Options (a), (b) and (d) are either completely or partially incorrect.


(B) According to Saul Bellow, interviews are like thumbprints on his windpipe. What emotion might best describe such an image?

(a) Sadness

(b) Frustration

(c) Pain

(d) Fear

Ans: (d) Fear

Explanation: Having thumbprints on one’s windpipe is a frightening experience. So, option (d) is the correct answer.

Options (a), (b) and (c) do not reflect the correct meaning. So,, they are incorrect.


(C) Denis Brian states that the interviewer occupies a position of power and influence as .................. (a) everything reaches us through one man asking questions of another.

(b) the interview is a supremely serviceable medium of communication.

(c) our most vivid impressions of our contemporaries are through interviews.

(d) interviews are like thumbprints on the interviewee’s windpipe.

Ans: (a) everything reaches us through one man asking questions of another.

Explanation: From the extract it is evident that option (a) is the correct answer.


(D) The use of the word “serviceable”implies that interviews are ..................

(a) significant. (b) powerful. (c) advanced. (d) useful. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]


Ans: (d) useful

Explanation: The sense of the word ‘serviceable’ here means providing a service. Hence ‘useful’ is the correct adjective. Therefore, option (d) is the correct answer.


2. Umberto Eco: And then I have a secret. Did you know what will happen if you eliminate the empty spaces from the universe, eliminate the empty spaces in all the atoms? The universe will become as big as my fist. Similarly, we have a lot of empty spaces in our lives. I call them interstices. Say you are coming over to my place. You are in an elevator and while you are coming up, I am waiting for you. This is an interstice, an empty space. I work in empty spaces. While waiting for your elevator to come up from the first to the third floor, I have already written an article! (Laughs).

(A) Choose a word that DOES NOT mean ‘eliminate’:

(a) Eradicate

(b) Obliterate

(c) Resuscitate

(d) Annihilate

Ans. (c) Resuscitate


Explanation: ‘Eliminate’ means to remove or destroy. This means options (a) eradicate, (c) obliterate and (d) annihilate are synonyms and mean the same. So, they are not the correct answer. Only option (c) means to ‘revive’. Hence, (c) is the correct answer.


(B) Why does Umberto Eco choose to compare the empty spaces in one’s life to that of the empty spaces in the universe?

(a) To illustrate that there is a lot of empty space available.

(b) To show that life is all empty space and not much else.

(c) To show that the universe is but one giant empty space.

(d) To demonstrate that what’s in the universe is also in one’s life.


Ans: (d) To demonstrate that what’s in the universe is also in one’s life.


(C) Choose another word that means Umberto Eco’s ‘interstices’:

(a) Closure

(b) Continuation

(c) Connection

(d) Lacuna


Ans: (d) Lacuna

Explanation: ‘Interstices’ means gaps or lacuna. Therefore, option (d) is the correct answer.

Options (a), (b) and (c) are opposites of ‘gaps’, meaning ‘a lack of space’ and so are not the correct answer.


(D) What can be inferred as the meaning of the sentence, ‘I work in empty spaces’?

(a) He works while teaching in a university.

(b) He works in the gaps between activities.

(c) He works while travelling in an elevator.

(d) He works while being interviewed.


Ans: (b) He works in the gaps between activities.

Explanation: Umberto Eco said he works in ‘interstices’, which are gaps. So, this points to option (b) as the correct option. Options (a), (c) and (d) are not the correct answer as they are not stated in the extract.




3. Umberto Eco: When I presented my first Doctoral dissertation in Italy, one of the Professors said, “Scholars learn a lot of a certain subject, then they make a lot of false hypotheses, then they correct them and at the end, they put the conclusions. You, on the contrary, told the story of your research. Even including your trials and errors.” At the same time, he recognised I was right and went on to publish my dissertation as a book, which meant he appreciated it.


(A) Choose another word for ‘dissertation’:

(a) Summary (b) Thesis (c) Creative writing(d) Abstract

Ans. (b) Thesis

Explanation: A ‘dissertation is a ‘thesis’. Hence, option (b) is the correct answer. Options (a) summary and (d) abstract are contained in the dissertation. Option (c) creative writing is the opposite of a dissertation, meaning it is a non-scholarly work. So, these options are incorrect.


(B) Choose the word from the extract that best fits this definition, ‘an idea or explanation for something that is based on known facts but has not yet been proven’:

(a) A hypothesis

(b) A dissertation

(c) A conclusion

(d) A trial

Ans: (a) A hypothesis


(C) Which of the following can be inferred from this extract?

(1) Eco was penalised for choosing to follow a different path.

(2) Eco’s style of writing dissertations became a new trend.

(3) No one before Eco wrote a dissertation like he did.

(4) Eco was appreciated for writing the story of his research.

(a) (1) and (2)

(b) (1) and (4)

(c) (3) and (4)

(d) (2) and (3)


Ans: (C) (c) (3) and (4)


Explanation: Eco’s professor implied that no one before him chose to work on his dissertation like he did and allowed him to publish his dissertation as a book in effect appreciating this work. Hence, option (c) is the correct answer. There is no evidence in the text for option (a). Options (b) and (d) are partially correct. So, they are not the correct answer.


(D) From the passage which adjective best describes Umberto Eco?

(a) Strong (b) Innovative (c) Stylish (d) Ordinary


Ans: (b) Innovative

Explanation: Someone who tries out a new way of doing things is called innovative. Eco was innovative because he tried out a new way of writing academic papers. Hence, option (b) is the correct answer. Options (a), (c) and (d) are incorrect as there is no evidence for them in the extract.




Short Questions


Q1.Why do you think Christopher Silvester describes the viewpoints of other writers and authors when discussing the concept of an interview? Support your opinion with reference to any one writer cited. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]

Ans. When discussing the concept of an interview, Christopher Silvester mentions what other writers and authors have said about it so that his point of view was not the only one in the introduction. An interview always is about multiple perspectives. Hence, Silvester honoured other perspectives by mentioning them.


Q2. How would you evaluate Mukund Padmanabhan as an interviewer? Mention at least two qualities he displays in his interview, supported by textual evidence. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]

Ans. The first quality is Mukund Padmanabhan can improvise. He asks a question based on what Umberto Eco says. For example, when Eco says he does many things but actually he is doing the same thing. Then Padmanabhan picks it up and asks, ‘Which is?’ Second, he connects Eco’s answer to the following question. For example: Eco says, ‘Novels satisfied my taste for narration’. Padmanabhan asks his next question with, ‘Talking about novels…’.


Q3. What is Umberto Eco’s concept of ‘interstices’? Explain how he uses them. [CBSE 2020]

Ans. According to Umberto Eco, our lives consist of empty spaces between activities like travelling

in an elevator. These are the ‘interstices’ which he uses to write articles and other works.


Q4.What are some of the positive views on interviews? [CBSE 2020]

Ans. The interview is a fairly young medium being just 130 years old. It has become a staple form of journalism. It gives a vivid impression of the contemporaries who are being interviewed. And it is an enormously effective medium of communication.





Q5. What is the reason for the huge success of the novel, The Name of the Rose? [CBSE 2008]

Ans. The reason for the stupendous success of the novel 'The Name of the Rose', is that the readers wanted something challenging to read and they got that from his book. Second, it belonged to a historical moment. Eco himself says it may not have been the same if it was published ten years earlier or later. Finally, Eco admitted that it is a bit of a mystery that his novel did so well.


Q6. What was distinctive about Umberto Eco’s academic writing? [CBSE 2011]

Ans. While other academics pursued a depersonalized, dry and boring style in their scholarly work, Umberto Eco used a personal style with a playful quality to write his scholarly work. This set his work apart from the others.


Q7. Compare and contrast V. S. Naipaul’s attitude to Rudyard Kipling’s on the subject of interviews.

Ans. V.S. Naipaul believed that people are wounded by interviews and lose a part of themselves. Whereas Rudyard Kipling held a condemnatory attitude towards interviews. He refused to be interviewed because he believed that interviews were immoral and a crime and so one ought to be punished for it.


Q8. Validate why did Rudyard Kipling refuse to be interviewed.

Ans: Rudyard Kipling refused to be interviewed because he considered it immoral. He also said that it was a crime, an offence against his privacy, and was an assault and therefore, merited a punishment.


Q9.Why would some celebrities consider interviews as an ‘unwarranted intrusion’ in their lives?

Ans. Celebrities have been interviewed time and again. So, if they see themselves as a victim of interview, they might consider it an ‘unwarranted intrusion’ in their lives.


Q10.How does Umberto Eco explain that he was in fact doing one thing in spite of writing in several genres?

Ans. Umberto Eco saw his varied interests as originating in a few philosophical interests. He said that he pursued these interests through his academic work and his novels. So, he was in fact pursuing one thing even through it was through many different ways.


Sample Long Answer Questions:


Q1. Mukund Padmanabhan was gifted the ‘Penguin Book of Interviews - An Anthology from 1859 to the Present Day’ edited by Christopher Silvester, after interviewing Eco. He shared his thoughts on his personal blog exploring his own concerns about interviewing a distinguished writer like Eco, followed by an evaluation of the interview in light of his reading. As Mukund Padmanabhan, write the blog post. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]

Ans. Interviewing Eco; Reading Silvester Recently, I had the good fortune to interview Umberto Eco. It was an thought-provoking experience. He was humble and down to earth. I was intrigued by his idea of ‘interstices’. He spoke about how he writes in these interstices and about 'The Name of the Rose'. I enjoyed speaking to such a learned mind. He straddled so many genres with such ease. Right after I interviewed Umberto Eco, I read ‘Penguin Book of Interviews - An Anthology from 1859 to the Present Day’ edited by Christopher Silvester. I am glad I read the introduction after my interview with Eco. I didn’t know that so many writers did not like being interviewed! I do hope Umberto Eco is not one among them. This is a useful book for journalists like me. It gives a historical perspective to the art of the interview, which I have not found elsewhere.




Q2. Justify feelings of the celebrities about interviews with reference to the text. Are they positive or negative?

Ans. Most of the celebrities that Silvester quoted seem to have a negative feeling towards interviews. V.S. Naipaul felt that some people are wounded by interviews and lose a part of themselves.


The author of 'Alice in Wonderland', Lewis Carroll was said to have a horror of being interviewed. His horror was one of being lionized which made him avoid acquaintances, interviewers and autograph hunters.


Rudyard Kipling refused to be interviewed because he considered it immoral and an offense against a person for which one should be punished. H.G. Wells too thought the interview was an ordeal. Saul Bellow gave many interviews but said they were like 'thumbprints on his windpipe'.


Only Denis Brian felt positive about interview and thought that it captured vivid impressions of contemporary people and believed that all things important came from one person asking questions of another.


Q3. Explain what can be understood about the interviewer’s preparation for an interview from Mukund Padmanabhan’s questions to Umberto Eco?

Ans. The interviewer must prepare for an interview. It is not next to impossible to walk into an interview and ask compelling questions. From Mukund Padmanabhan’s questions, it is evident that he prepared for the interview well in advance. He would have read Umberto Eco’s books; if not all the novels, at least some of them. It is based on his reading that he prepared his questions.


His questions on Eco’s academic style were based on Padmanabhan’s research on it. There was one slight hiccup where Padmanabhan quoted an incorrect number of scholarly works of non-fiction that Eco wrote, which was twenty and Eco corrected it to forty.


Besides that, it was an insightful interview as Padmanabhan’s questions revealed Umberto Eco’s writing approach, his opinions on being a professor and novelist and the secret of the success of 'The Name of the Rose'.


Q4. What are some of the negative aspects of interviews as given in "The Interview"?
OR
How do celebrity writers despise being interviewed as given in "The Interview"?

Ans: Since its invention a little over 130 years ago, the interview has become a commonplace of journalism. Over the years it has looked at differently. Opinions about its functions, methods and merits vary considerably. Some say it is a source of truth and in practice, an art. Others despise it being 'an unwarranted intrusion into their lives'. They feel it diminishes them. They equate it to taking a photographic portrait of somebody which in some primitive cultures means 'stealing that person's soul'. V.S. Naipaul 'feels that some people are wounded by interviews and lose a part of themselves'. Lewis Carroll, the creator of Alice in Wonderland, had had a horror of the interviewer and never agreed to being interviewed. Rudyard Kipling called it 'immoral', 'a crime', and 'an assault". It was 'cowardly and vile'. H.G. Wells, in an interview in 1894, referred to the interviewing ordeal'. Saul Bellow called interviews as being like 'thumbprints on his windpipe'.





NCERT Solution:

Think As You Read


Q1. What are some of the positive views on interviews?

Ans: Ans. Interviews are in their highest forms a source of truth. In practice they are an art. They are 'a supremely serviceable medium of communication. We know about the celebrities and others through their interviews.


Q2. Why do most celebrity writers despise being interviewed?

Ans. Most celebrity writers despise being interviewed because they look at interviews 'as an unwarranted intrusion into their lives'. They feel that it diminishes them They feel that some people are wounded by interviews and lose a part of themselves. Lewis Carroll had had a horror of the interview. Rudyard Kipling called interviews as 'immoral' and a 'crime'.

Q3. What do you understand by the 6 expression “thumbprints on his windpipe”?

Ans: Saul Bellow once described interviews as being like 'thumbprints on his windpipe. It means he treated interviews as something that caught him by his windpipe. squeezed him and left indelible thumbprints on that. So he meant them as highly undesirable and cruel.


Q4. Who, in today's world, is our chief source of information about personalities?

Ans. In today's world our chief source of information about personalities is the interview. The interview is 'a supremely serviceable medium of communication". Through questions asked in an interview we get all the aspects of human personalities being interviewed.



Understanding the text ( Page 73)


1. Do you think Umberto Eco likes being interviewed? Give reasons for your opinion.

Ans: Ans. I think that unlike other great literary figures Eco likes being interviewed. Nowhere does he say anything that may give us this impression! His answers to Mukund's questions are straightforward, precise and to the point. They are never wavering. This means he likes being interviewed.


12. How does Eco find the time to write so much? (A.L. CBSE 2008)


Ans. Eco humorously states that there are a lot of empty spaces in his life. He calls them 'interstices'. These are moments when one is waiting for the other. In that empty space, Eco laughingly states that he writes an article. Then he states that he writes (novels) on Sundays.


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

Ans. Eco's non-fictional writing, that is, his scholarly work, has a certain 'playful and personal quality' about it. It is different from his regular academic style which is depersonalised, dry and boring. It was an informal approach. But his academic style is impersonal and serious.


4. Did Umberto Eco consider himself a novelist first or an academic scholar?

Umberto Eco wrote novels on Sundays. Being called a novelist bothered him. He participated in academic conferences and not meetings of Pen Clubs and writers. He identified himself more with the academic community.


5. What is the reason for the huge success of the novel, The Name of the Rose?


Ans: The reason for the huge success of the novel, according to Eco, is a mystery". He states that if he had written the novel ten years earlier or ten years later, it wouldn't have been the same. So the time component, its narrative technique, its aspects of metaphysics, theology and medieval history, made it a grand success.


Extra Questions


Q1. What, according to Eco, were the two reasons that made the novel a huge Rose.' success?

Ans. The two reasons, according to Eco, were: one, that the novel dealt with a period of medieval history. Second, its narrative technique. Eco adopted the technique of telling stories like a Chinese wise man. So the success of the novel was 'a mystery' .


Q2. Why did Rudyard Kipling refuse to be interviewed? (A.1. CBSE 2008)

Ans. Rudyard Kipling condemned interviews. His wife writes in her diary that Rudyard Kipling told the reporters that he called being interviewed as 'immoral' and 'a crime' like an offence against any person. It merited punishment. It was 'cowardly and vile'.


Q3. What did Umberto Eco learn at the age of 22 that he pursued in his novels? Ans : At the age of 22, Umberto Eco understood that scholarly books should be written the way he had done, that is, they should be written by telling the story of the research. He means to say that they should have the narrative technique. That’s why he started writing novels so late—at the age of 50.

Q4. Did Umberto Eco consider himself a novelist first or an academic scholar? Discuss briefly. Ans : Umberto Eco considered himself an academic scholar, a university professor who wrote novels on Sundays. If somebody said that he was a novelist, that bothered him. He participated in academic conferences and not the meetings of Pen Clubs and writers. He identified himself with academic community.


Q5. What, according to Eco, puzzles journalists and publishers? Ans : According to Umberto Eco, journalists and publishers are puzzled when something unexpected happens. They believe that people like trash and do not like difficult reading experiences. But Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose, a serious work, sold between 10 and 15 million copies. This puzzled them.

Q6. Why did Umberto take to writing novels? Ans :Umberto took to writing novels to satisfy his taste for narration. He did not have even a single novel to his credit, till the age of 50. One day having nothing to do, he started writing a novel. Moreover, he thought that novels have more readership and he could reach a larger audience.

Q7. How did Umberto Eco become spectacularly famous? Ans :Umberto Eco had earned a good reputation in the field of semiotics or the study of signs. His scholarly works were staggeringly large and wide ranging. But his spectacular fame came to him with his novel The Name of the Rose which stormed the world and sold more than 10 million copies.


Q8. The Interview as a communication genre is here to stay. Discuss with reference to the interview with Umberto Eco.

Ans :The interview today is a communication genre that has come to stay. Its detractors—mostly celebrities— despise it as an intrusion into their lives. However, a good interview can be a source of truth, it is an excellent medium of communication and in the modern world our most vivid impressions of contemporaries are through interviews. It is through the interview that we learn about Eco’s diverse writings, his interest in the philosophy of non-violence and peace and his ability to put every spare moment to constructive use. At the interviewer’s prompting, he tells us why he writes scholarly works in an informal style and how he started writing novels. We realise that he is an academician at heart. He honestly talks of the success of his book as a mystery saying that it might not have sold so well in another time.


Q9. How does the interview with Umberto Eco prove that the interview is the most commendable tool to elicit information about the interviewee?

Ans :Mukund Padmanabhan from ‘The Hindu’ interviews Umberto Eco and proves that interview is the most commendable tool to elicit information about the interviewee. Through his interview he reveals that Eco is a prolific writer and yet a man who is most modest about his achievements. He very humbly spells the secret of his varied and staggeringly voluminous works produced by him. When Mukund asks him about David Lodge’s remark that how one man can do all the things that Eco does’, Eco very modestly says it is a fallacious impression, in fact he has always been doing the same thing by pursuing the same philosophical ideas. He views himself as an academic, rather than a novelist. He admits that he has started writing novels by accident and writes novels on Sundays.


Q10. How does Eco explain that he is convinced he is always doing the same thing? Ans :Umberto Eco explains to Mukund Padmanabhan in an interview that all the people have a lot of empty spaces. These he call ‘interstices’. He explains them through an example. He says that one is to come to him and is in an elevator and he is waiting for him. While waiting for the guest’s elevator to appear before him, he has already written an article. It means he writes in snatches of time. However, his creative ideas flow in his mind every time even when he is hosting his guest. Though he relaxes on Sundays, yet is very much busy to write novels. On other days he is busy with his academic work.

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