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The Man Who Saves Life Stories

4 Extra Debut. Irving Finkel rescues other people's diaries from junk shops and car boot sales. But what should he do with them? From June 2012.

Irving Finkel collects ordinary people's lives. He hoards their life stories in diary form and has amassed a collection of hundreds of handwritten volumes. But Irving has a problem. What should he do with them? The diaries are crammed onto shelves and piled up in corners of his small office. Irving's day job is Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum.

With a couple of trusty recruits, Polly North and Laura Barnicoat, Irving sets out to find a home for his collection and turn it into a 'proper' archive. The plan is to create a repository for unwanted private diaries written by ordinary people.

As the project takes shape, the diarist's life stories take over. There's Godfrey, a retired JP who kept chickens and made an entry in his diary every day for 76 years. There's an unnamed catastrophist, who notes only deaths, diseases and disasters. Whilst Laura's grandmother, at 18, shows a flair for bagging boyfriends and wonderful prose.

And finally, there's a mystery. Why did a war time school girl write in code?

Producer: Tamsin Hughes
A Testbed Production for BBC Radio 4.

28 minutes

Last on

Fri 1 Jun 2018 01:30