I’ve adapted John Berger’s book “A FORTUNATE MAN“ for BBC Radio 4.
It was broadcast on R4 Saturday 27th June 2020 at 3pm.
It’s now available on BBC SOUNDS for a month.
It’s a book I’ve known and loved for many years.
In the 1960s writer John Berger was living in the Forest of Dean, and became friends with his extraordinary local GP John Eskell in the village of St Briavels. Interested in this talented and complex man, Berger asked the doctor if he could shadow him for some weeks to observe his working methods and his relationships with his patients in the forest.
Along with photographer Jean Mohr, Berger turned this experience into a remarkable book – A FORTUNATE MAN. It describes many patient case studies, asks how we value human life, and meditates on the role of the doctor in society. (To protect Eskell’s identity, Berger changed his name in the book to John Sassall.)
For me it’s a fascinating, intelligent, and challenging book. It’s filled with poetry, unsentimental emotion, and is ultimately extremely moving.
While the book was published in 1967, it feels modern, relevant and resonant to the world now (and particularly this country and the NHS.)
The last sections could have been written this year.
“There are such things as national crises of such an order that they test all those who live through them. There are moments of truth in which, not everything, but a great deal is revealed about individuals, classes, institutions, leaders…”
(From A FORTUNATE MAN – JOHN BERGER.)
Set in the Forest and the somewhat isolated Forester community – it speaks directly to today.
And there is a bitter twist to the ending.
Although I can’t claim I knew John Berger, I did meet him on a few occasions while working with the Theatre Company ‘Complicite’ in the early 2000s. (While adapting Torgny Lindgren’s novel ‘LIGHT’ with the company.) He was a great observer, listener, and thinker – often surprising and passionate, always insightful. (His death 3 years ago was a great loss.)
A FORTUNATE MAN the AUDIO DRAMA:
My radio adaptation of A Fortunate Man – is an hour long.
(It was written and recorded under lock down conditions in March/April.)
It’s produced/directed by John Norton.
Sound designed by Nigel Lewis.
And the voices of Dorothy Burley, Kevin and Karen Wellham, Anne Childs and Robin Harris, recorded by the Reading the Forest project.
(The latter are real village voices recorded in recent years as they remember their Dr. Eskell.)