If you’ve been living under a rock, you might have missed the announcement that one of the world’s most loved authors passed away last week. I was never going to do a post like this – probably like many others – but here I am, reflecting on the life and work of Terry Pratchett.
I began to read his stories when I was a university student in the mid eighties. Over the years I read more and more of them, and then I re-read them again and again. When I’m in need of a ‘comfort read’ it’s always a Pratchett book that I turn to.
His characters became old friends, and the Discworld a place to escape to for an hour or two’s vacation. As any reader of Pratchett knows, despite the humour in every book, there’s always a deeper message, along with some astute social commentary. Little pearls of wisdom were dispensed in every book, and each story made me look a little deeper at both myself and also the society in which I live.
Stories of tourists, wizardry, ‘headology’ and law vie with trolls, dwarves and goblins when you enter the Discworld. Themes from Shakespeare, Phantom of the Opera and the roots of multiple mythologies rub shoulders with crime fighting and racism and good old whodunnits.
I’ve met many favourite characters along the way. Vimes has always been one of my favourites. His stories often explored the darker side of the human character, and his internal wrestles highlighted the choices we all choose to make along the way. Granny Weatherwax’s character was similar in many ways, but she brought a different perspective to the way things were and can be perceived.
I know many people believe Going Postal and Making Money were the peak of Pratchett’s writing, but for me, the sheer scope of the moral and ethical issues that he covered in his Watch and Witch books are almost without compare. Even when Vimes or Granny Weatherwax made cameo appearances in other books, they were never less than memorable.
Much has been written about Death. In many ways he was anthropomorphised, but I always like to think of Death as anthropomorphising himself. I think that perhaps we saw more of Terry Pratchett the man, in his books about Death. There always appeared to be an element of self exploration when he wrote about Death, or even about Susan. I may be reading too much into this, however many of his later books featured Death, even if only momentarily or only in a thematic manner. We saw Tiffany Aching learning to shepherd people through the door, Vimes come close to death, and Cohen and his barbarians having one last fling.
Over the years, I’ve had the great pleasure of introducing my father, our kids, and various friends to the wonderful works of Terry Pratchett. I’ve enjoyed their giggles, snickers and comments as they’ve read his stories, and I’m sad that their creator has now left this earth.
I have no doubt though, that the works of Terry Pratchett will continue to be read with great joy for many, many years. He’s left a wonderful legacy of thoughtful, clever writing, despite living with what he referred to as the ’embuggerance’ over the last few years.
His Twitter account announced his departure in the most fitting way possible. Wander on over and read those words, shed a tear or two perhaps, and celebrate his life by reading his books.