Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

Sir Terry Pratchett, author and campaigner, has died at home aged 66.

We don't usually do obituaries here at Doux Reviews, and yet here we are, producing two in two weeks. But it seemed right to mark the passing of Sir Pterry, author of more than 70 novels including more than 40 set in the Discworld.

Screen adaptations of his work have sadly been few and far between, as, it seems, film and TV producers did not always quite 'get' his creations - for example, one production company wanted to know if it might be possible to do Mort (a story about Death, the skeletal Reaper, taking on an apprentice) without the Death/skeleton bit. There have been animated adaptations of Wyrd Sisters, Soul Music and the non-Discworld Truckers, and live-action adaptations of Hogfather, The Colour of Magic and Going Postal, plus numerous radio and stage productions. Still, it's on the page that Pratchett's work really flourished, and it's for his novels that we'll remember him.

The Discworld, Pratchett's most famous and enduring creation, is as old as I am and, with new books having appeared once or twice a year for most of that time, the idea that soon there will be no more Discworld books is hard to get your head around. I discovered the Discworld during a compulsory 'read-a-book-from-the-library' session at school. At the time I had moved on from The Babysitters' Club and was reading nothing but Sweet Valley High. My dad, desperate as both parents were to get me reading something more worthwhile and knowing how much I liked CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Douglas Adams, suggested that Pratchett, with his combination of fantasy and humour, might be an author I could enjoy. I did. The Discworld is such a rich and varied world that I have grown with the books, my favourites changing from the female-centric Witches books and high fantasy Death books that were my favourites as a teenager to morph into my love of the cynical City Watch and its grizzled Commander Vimes above all else as an adult. For younger readers introduced to the world through the later Young Adult books about Tiffany Aching, this effect must be even stronger.

My dad's recommendation of the Discworld certainly had the desired effect of getting me into quality literature, and later it got my brother - now much more of a bookworm than me - into reading anything at all. Pratchett's books are not self-consciously 'literary', nor are they trying to create some grand opus. They are fun and easy to read, their satire sharp and always, most importantly, funny, however serious the underlying point. They are simply good. Pratchett referred to literary criticism of his works as him being "accused of literature", which is why one major collection of essays is called Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature - although he sometimes had a point to make, he didn't write for critical acclaim or awards, but for love and to bring pleasure to others. But ultimately, that is what true literature, literature that touches you and makes a lasting impression, really is - something written with care and from the heart.

Sir Pterry and I, had we ever met, would have disagreed on many fundamental things (assisted suicide, the existence of God, the entertainment value of football) but in his public statements he was always unfailingly polite and respectful in disagreement. When he put forth his views - as he did pretty strongly on many occasions - he did so with passion, intelligence, integrity and often with humour. It's an example we can only hope others follow.

When CS Lewis died, Tolkien wrote to his daughter that at his age, he felt like a tree losing its leaves one by one, but that the loss of Lewis was "an axe-blow near the roots". The world of fantasy literature feels the same about Terry Pratchett. But we can only refer to the motto given him by the College of Arms, Noli Timore Messorum - Don't Fear the Reaper - and wish him a safe onward journey to wherever it is he's going next.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:10TerryPratchett02.jpg

9 comments:

Mark Greig said...

We lost one of the greats today.

RIP Terry.

ChrisB said...

I am not particularly a fan, but what a lovely tribute, Juliette.

Billie Doux said...

What ChrisB said. That was lovely, Juliette.

Onanymous said...

I fell in love with the Discworld on a long family road-trip down to Cape Town when I was 14. The book was Weird Sisters and I remember laughing out loud so often that my family demanded to hear the funny bits too.

Since then, not a single year has passed where I haven't read at least one of his books. In my mind, they went from being wonderful and funny to being truly great round about the time of Night Watch (Yes, it's mostly Sam Vimes' fault)

Now, I am half way through reading Raising Steam and I just can't quite believe that my visits to this magical, hilarious and sometimes profound place is nearly at an end.

Sir Terry, you will be truly missed.

“DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.” - Good Omens

Juliette said...

Thanks all. Onanymous, Night Watch is one of my favourites too - though I do love some of the earlier ones (Pyramids, Guards! Guards! and Reaper Man are amazing).

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute, indeed.
Quick question - at what age could kids start reading Discworld do you think?

//Henrik (who's having trouble with logging into accounts and stuff)

Juliette said...

Henrik, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and the Tiffany Aching books are Young Adult books, so they're good ones to start with for kids (though there is some pretty heavy material in I Shall Wear Midnight, so they're not for very young kids). I don't about exact age - it probably depends on the child - but I guess from about 10? Or 8? I dunno, I don't know much about kids!

I read Equal Rites when I was 12 and enjoyed it a lot. For adults or teenagers who want to try the series though, I'd always recommend starting with Mort, Pyramids, Moving Pictures or Guards! Guards!, depending on preference (and never the first one, The Colour of Magic, which is actually quite different to the rest of the series!)

Sam Smih said...

Terry Pratchett has said before that he was leaving the intellectual rights to his books to his daughter, who is also a writer. RIP Sir Terry.

Baz said...

The Guards series and the Death series are my favourites of Sir Terry's - the Discworld series as a whole was one of my first series of books that I fell in love with as a kid/teen, and while I haven't really read any of the books in the last 10 years I will always remember them as funny, smart and surprisingly moving. The growth of Sam Grimes over the Guards series is one of the most impressive over any book series I think I've ever read.

He was my first favourite author, and I am surprised at how sad I am at his passing.

TAKE MY HAND SIR AND REST IN PEACE...