Meet the Writers | Monocle

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Culture / Podcast

Meet the Writers

Want to know more about the authors behind your favourite books? Tune in to discover the methods of – and inspiration behind – some of the world’s most exciting writers. Every Sunday, Georgina Godwin hosts an in-depth discussion with the person behind the prose.

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Juan M Lavista Ferres on AI for Good:

In Microsoft’s pioneering AI For Good Lab, data scientists and researchers’ use of artificial intelligence (AI) is helping to tackle disinformation, predict wildfires, track whales and even detect leprosy in vulnerable populations. But what are the dangers in AI being used for bad? Chief Scientist and Lab Director Juan M Lavista Ferres has co-authored the book ‘AI for Good’, which explores the measurable effect, potential and limitations of AI’s application in addressing global challenges in health, climate change and human rights, explored in this in-depth conversation.

Latest episodes

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45321 Jul 2024
29 min

Juan M Lavista Ferres on AI for Good 

In Microsoft’s pioneering AI For Good Lab, data scientists and researchers’ use of artificial intelligence (AI) is helping to tackle disinformation, predict wildfires, track whales and even detect leprosy in vulnerable populations. But what are the dangers in AI being used for bad? Chief Scientist and Lab Director Juan M Lavista Ferres has co-authored the book ‘AI for Good’, which explores the measurable effect, potential and limitations of AI’s application in addressing global challenges in health, climate change and human rights, explored in this in-depth conversation.

DownloadPlay
45214 Jul 2024
28 min

Tiffany Murray’s rock’n’roll childhood 

Ever wondered what David Bowie liked to eat for dinner, or how the members of Queen wrote and rehearsed their famous “Galileos”? Tiffany Murray’s new memoir invites us into the lives of 1970s rock nobility. Set at two recording studios, including the legendary Rockfield Studios where she was raised, her mother Joan was a chef for the likes of Black Sabbath and Motörhead. Georgina Godwin speaks to the author about Freddie Mercury’s love for the family’s great dane, her first encounter with drugs and vengeful neighbouring farmers in this enchanting account of the rural recording studio. 

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4517 Jul 2024
28 min

Christopher Isherwood, ‘Inside Out’, with Katherine Bucknell 

The twentieth-century author Christopher Isherwood, made famous by his 1930s work in Berlin, approached his writing about queerness, politics and religion with frankness and wit. The writer repeatedly fictionalised himself and his friends in his novels. Katherine Bucknell, the editor of four volumes of Isherwood’s diaries and letters, explains that it was his mother’s own diaries that first introduce us to the character of Isherwood. Using a wealth of unpublished material, Bucknell reveals the drama and complexity of the author’s inner world in an epic new biography.

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45030 Jun 2024
29 min

UK general election special with Alun Evans 

The 2024 UK general election is just days away. Speaking to Georgina Godwin is an expert on many aspects of UK government and politics, in particular, the support systems to ministers and prime ministers. Alun Evans CBE, a civil servant for more than three decades, lifts the lid on what’s happening behind the door of 10 Downing Street during important transitions in politics through his new book, ‘The Intimacy of Power: An insight into private office, Whitehall’s most sensitive network’.

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44923 Jun 2024
25 min

Anders Lustgarten 

Today’s guest is perhaps the only playwright and novelist to have been an international athlete, teacher of those on death row at San Quentin prison in California and a tree surgeon – and he only began writing in his thirties. He won the inaugural Harold Pinter Playwright’s Award for ‘If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep’ at the Royal Court and his play ‘Lampedusa’ has been performed in 40 countries. His debut novel is ‘Three Burials’, a satire on the refugee crisis.

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44816 Jun 2024
27 min

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2024 winner 

Taking home this year’s prize is US writer and journalist V V Ganeshananthan for her second novel, ‘Brotherless Night’, which took her almost two decades to complete. Her debut novel, ‘Love Marriage’, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2009. ‘Brotherless Night’ is the story of Sashi, a 16-year-old aspiring doctor, growing up in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in the 1980s. The novel vividly and compassionately centres erased and marginalised stories – Tamil women, students, teachers, ordinary civilians – exploring the moral nuances of violence and terrorism against a backdrop of oppression and exile. 

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4479 Jun 2024
29 min

Sasha Salzmann 

The Berlin-based author and playwright was born in the then-USSR and emigrated to Germany in 1995. ‘Glorious People’, their second novel, now translated into English, was longlisted for the German Book Prize and won several others. Salzmann has since been awarded the prestigious Kleist Prize for 2024, the biggest prize for literature in Germany. 

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4462 Jun 2024
26 min

Kaliane Bradley 

The British-Cambodian writer and editor initially wrote ‘The Ministry of Time’ – her gripping sci-fi rom-com debut – as a joke for a handful of friends. The genre-bending thriller, which explores themes including immigration and environmentalism, became an instant bestseller. Even before the novel landed on bookshelves last month, the BBC beat Netflix in a bidding war to turn the book into a TV drama. Kaliane Bradley tells Georgina Godwin about the obligation she felt to write a “serious” book about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, her work at Penguin Classics as an editor, and how her funny and fantastical debut came about.

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44526 May 2024
28 min

International Booker Prize 2024 winner 

Announced this week is the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024. The recipient of this year’s award is ‘Kairos’ by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck and translated by Michael Hoffman, who each take home half of the £50,000 prize money. Host Georgina Godwin speaks to the winning duo and the administrator of the prize, Fiammetta Rocco, who lifts the lid on the selection process. We also talk to Granta’s Sigrid Rausing, who reveals who is buying translated literature and what sells best.

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44419 May 2024
29 min

Andrew O’Hagan 

Award-winning Scottish author and editor at large at the ‘London Review of Books’, Andrew O’Hagan has spent the past decade working on his state-of-the-nation novel, ‘Caledonian Road’. Employing the traditions of Victorian writing, his research took him to the homes of Russian oligarchs, the Old Bailey and even a ship from Venice to Trieste. Here, O’Hagan talks about how libraries “saved” him, ghostwriting Julian Assange’s autobiography and his brief brushes with royalty.

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44312 May 2024
27 min

AK Blakemore 

‘For me, beauty and disgust don’t really exist in binary.’ AK Blakemore’s discovery of tales of The Great Tarare, a French showman with an insatiable appetite, was the perfect setting for her to explore her love of the grotesque and abject. Shortlisted for this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize, her novel ‘The Glutton’ explores the almost folkloric life of the soldier-turned-street performer, as he tours around France eating everything from nails and stones to snakes and puppies. Blakemore also talks about her childhood living on the 24th floor of a tower block in southeast London, experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, and the symbolic power of food in literature.

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4425 May 2024
26 min

Avi Shlaim 

“We left Iraq as Jews, and we arrived in Israel as Iraqis.” Acclaimed historian Avi Shlaim is a man with a complicated backstory as an Arab Jew. He has a very clear-eyed view of events leading up to the current crisis in the Middle East. He traces the origins of the conflict to antisemitism in the UK after the First World War and even to the Jews of Babylon 2,500 years ago. Shlaim tells us why he believes that accusations of antisemitism and anti-Zionism are being used to silence the critique of Israel’s practices, and why he considers Marilyn Monroe a “profound thinker”.

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44128 Apr 2024
28 min

‘The Great American Novels’, according to ‘The Atlantic’ 

In 1868 writer John William DeForest introduced the idea of the ‘great American novel’ – a work that succeeded in ‘the task of painting the American soul’. Now, the editors of ‘The Atlantic’ have published a list that offers a wider, deeper and weirder take on the idea. Author and senior editor Gal Beckerman talks us through the 136 books chosen by the magazine. He tells us about the fascinating selection process and how ‘The Atlantic’ is returning to its founding principles and defending democratic values.

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44021 Apr 2024
26 min

Zeinab Badawi 

“Education for girls is the family business”, says Sudanese-British broadcast journalist Zeinab Badawi. She tells us about her family, career and what it’s like to interview the world’s most notable politicians on ‘BBC Hard Talk’. Badawi explains how her groundbreaking TV series, ‘The History of Africa’, for which she visited 34 African countries over seven years, led her to write her debut book ‘An African History of Africa’.

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43914 Apr 2024
30 min

Christos Tsiolkas 

The Melbourne-based author talks about how his life has changed since his multi-award-winning 2008 novel ‘The Slap’ made him one of Australia’s most celebrated writers. Born to immigrant Greek parents, his writing confronts themes ranging from social and cultural tensions in modern Australia to faith, sexuality, class, race and the blights of communism in practice. His latest novel, ‘The In-Between’ is a tender exploration of love between two middle-aged gay men. 

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