Alain Elkann Interviews podcasts are an unprecedented window into the minds of some of the most well-known and respected figures of the last twenty-five years. Alain Elkann has mastered the art of the interview, approaching the task as somewhere between snapping a photograph and writing a short story. With a background in novels and journalism, and having published over twenty books translated across ten languages, Alain infuses his interviews with innovation, allowing them to flow freely and organically. A small selection, to which we will gradually add, are presented here as podcasts for the first time.
The great Toni Morrison. Born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize in Literature winning novelist, an editor, and a teacher. Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and Toni Morrison’s novels are known for their epic themes, exquisite language and the richly detailed African-American characters who are central to their narratives. Toni Morrison lives in a sun-filled house by the Hudson River. On a Saturday afternoon Victoire Bourgois and I took a ride 45 minutes up the Hudson River with a driver who had lived his whole life in New York and pointed to us all the different areas of New Jersey, Upstate, Yonkers, Connecticut. When we arrived she greeted us warmly, and when talking about her writing process she said: ‘My desk does not face the river, otherwise I would not do a thing all day but watch the river. Here there is a mixture of salt water and tidal movements and fresh water, because it is so close to New York City.’
FOLLOWING THE GYPSY FAERIE QUEENE. My interview with MARIANNE FAITHFULL took place in her flat on the Boulevard du Montparnasse in Paris on a lovely autumn day in 2018.
ZAHA HADID. The following interview with the architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) took place in the Royal Academicians’ Room in the Keeper’s House at the Royal Academy of Arts in London’s Mayfair. The invited audience was generously welcomed by Charles Saumarez Smith, then the Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy.
CONNECTING HUMANS AND NATURE. I interviewed the eminent Japanese architect TADAO ANDO at Château La Coste, the beautiful hotel and vineyard located near Aix-en-Provence, where Ando was opening a show of his drawings in the art centre that he built in 2011. Afterwards, Ando was going on to Paris, as he is restoring and rebuilding the Bourse de Commerce building to become a museum that houses the Pinault Collection.
JULIAN FELLOWES is an English actor, novelist, film director and screenwriter, known for the screenplay for the film Gosford Park and as the creator, writer and executive producer of the multiple award-winning television series Downton Abbey. In this 2015 interview he discusses the characters he develops in Downton Abbey and the sometimes surprising way in which his public responds to them.
DR. MONTEFIORE is a historian of Russia and the Middle East. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has been awarded the Literary Prize Lupicaia del Terriccio 2017 for his book ‘The Romanovs: 1613-1918’. He is the author of ‘Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair’, ‘Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar’, ‘Young Stalin’ and ‘Jerusalem: The Biography’. Also a novelist, he completed his Moscow trilogy in June 2017 with the publication of ‘Red Sky at Noon’.
SUZY MENKES is a leading British journalist and fashion critic. Formerly the fashion editor for the International Herald Tribune at the time of this interview she had been International Fashion Editor for 19 editions of Vogue online.
The leading architect DAVID ADJAYE set up his first office in 1994, where his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision. Adjaye Associates now has four international offices, with projects throughout the world. He is the John C. Portman Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard University and designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
HANIF KUREISHI is the author of novels such as ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ and ‘Intimacy’, story collections, plays and screenplays. ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ was made into a BBC TV series with a soundtrack by David Bowie. ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’, a story about a gay Pakistani-British boy growing up in 1980’s London, won the New York Film Critics Best Screenplay Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. ‘Intimacy’ was loosely adapted in the controversial movie Intimacy that won two Bears at the Berlin Film Festival.
TIMOTHY SNYDER is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. Most recent of the many books the leading American historian and public intellectual has written is THE ROAD TO UNFREEDOM: RUSSIA, EUROPE, AMERICA. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.
LOYD GROSSMAN is chairman of The Royal Parks of London. The Royal Parks charity supports and manages London’s eight Royal parks, and other important open spaces. Loyd has a long association with the arts and heritage sectors, and is also known for his work on television, MasterChef, and his eponymous cooking sauces.
GEORGE OSBORNE is a British Conservative politician who was a Member of Parliament from 2001 to 2017. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under David Cameron from 2010 to 2016. When he left politics George Osborne didn’t want to walk away from the national conversation and he has been editor of the London Evening Standard since May 2017. Alain made this interview with him on March 12th at the height of the Brexit debates in parliament and with the UK poised to leave the European Union on March 29th 2019.
THE JOB OF THE ARTIST IS TO MAKE TIME STAND STILL says TRACEY EMIN the renowned British artist as she contemplates her life, saying ”When I am old, even if I can’t walk I still want to be able to work. Everything I have and I do is towards my art. Art is like a wall. You stop and it talks to you. Art is not competing with technology, machinery, spaceships. Art is something else. Art comes from another place. Art never left me. It looks after me financially as well as spiritually, socially, but most importantly I have to remain morally secure.”
A MOMENT OF TRANSITION. MINOUCHE SHAFIK is Director of the LSE, The London School of Economics and Political Science. She was the youngest vice-president in the history of the World Bank where she worked for 15 years, returning to the UK in 2004 as the UK Permanent Secretary of the Department of International Development. In 2011 she became Deputy Managing Director of the IMF and from 2014-2017 was Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Alain made this interview with Dame Minouche in her office at the LSE in early 2018.
A CHARMED LIFE. The renowned photographer DAVID BAILEY was born in 1938 in East London. His first published portrait was of Somerset Maugham for Today magazine in 1960, and he famously met the supermodel Jean Shrimpton while he was at Vogue. Since then Bailey has made many iconic images of legendary and diverse personalities, including Queen Elizabeth II, the Rolling Stones, Mother Teresa, the Kray twins, Damien Hirst, Desmond Tutu and Kate Moss. Bailey provided the inspiration behind Antonioni’s 1966 mystery-thriller Blow-Up and is still working. Alain and he made this highly entertaining interview in Bailey’s studio in December 2018, just a few days before his 81st birthday.