Regrettably, I don’t currently have enough time to go into as much detail on this subject as I should, but I absolutely cannot pass this week without posting a tribute to the incredible Terry Pratchett.
Of the 40 Pratchett novels in the Discworld series, I have probably read around 15. Of these, I have enjoyed precisely 15. Funny, sharp and always relevant, this man has done so much to make the satirical world of the Disc both interesting and entertaining. After Oscar Wilde, he’s probably one of the most quotable writers we humans have ever had the privilege of knowing. More often than not, his opinions are the perfect balance of wit and reason, with a range of quotes covering major themes: human nature, religion… and, sadly, death. He was a literary genius, especially when creating likeable-yet-flawed characters and giving them broad character arcs: taking someone rough around the edges, and sending them off on a journey to something better. The ‘spirit of the second chance’, if you will. His greatest characters included Moist von Lipwig (cunning criminal), Sam Vimes (determined policeman), Mort (naive teenager)…
[At this point in writing, I realise that all his characters are brilliant.]
However, as an aspiring writer myself, I have always loved reading the sections with Death most of all. He’s a surprisingly ‘human’ personification of our demise; he has a dry sense of humour, which seems so very natural in context; he speaks in full capitals, which is such a perfectly simple and yet marvellous idea. And, like everyone on the Disc, he’s so very susceptible to the trappings of humanity. If you’re looking to get into Pratchett’s literature, I suggest this wonderful video introduction to the world, from the talented and friendly Jean Menzies (and her equally brilliant channel bookishthoughts):
No conversation about Pratchett would be complete without discussion of his inspirational work talking about Alzheimer’s Disease in its various forms. He lived with this “embuggerance” – his understated, darkly-comic description of it – for many years, and also became a vocal supporter of new legislation for assisted dying, leaving a legacy which I hope will only continue to gain momentum. Alzheimer’s is, of course, incredibly debilitating, and his friend Neil Gaiman wrote a piece for the Guardian in 2014 talking about the man’s unbelievable “anger” at his clear misfortune. The absolute highlight of Gaiman’s article is its profound, inspirational conclusion:
I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, “What would Terry do with this anger?” Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write.
In conclusion: Pratchett was an excellent thinker who was always ready to question things in life. He was also a well-known atheist, and for that reason this next sentence may seem a bit odd, but I’ll go ahead anyway. Because I personally have one wish for Terry: I hope he got it wrong. I hope he’s sitting happily in an afterlife – perhaps in the form of the Wiltshire countryside he loved so much – laughing at the obvious irony, chatting (or arguing) with God, and looking around for something funny to write about. I hope this because he, of all people, deserves some ‘extra’ life. His work has entertained so many people over the years, and I wish we could give something back to him. Thank you, Terry.
“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING,” said Death. “JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”