If you were to write a play, there would be few more compelling characters than a 94-year-old Second World War veteran who is so despairing of the world that he turns to young peoples’ technology to reach young peoples’ ears. Harry Leslie Smith is that person, a nonagenarian podcaster, and this is the story of his late-life awakening, told in three acts. It has an almost happy ending.
I first heard Harry Leslie Smith speak in June, 2015, at a sold-out lecture in Vancouver. He was 92, a small, wizened figure who walked haltingly onstage and commanded it for the next hour. He spoke about the shattering poverty he’d experienced as a child, growing up in Yorkshire: His 10-year-old sister died of tuberculosis, her body tossed in an unmarked pauper’s grave. His father followed, years later, in another unmarked grave. Mr. Smith spoke about his worries that the world …
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