Terry Pratchett: Discworld, Imagination & Death

Sir Terry Pratchett has written a phenomal series of books in the Discworld series, though I say that having only just finished the second book. I knew Terry Pratchett from having watched ‘Choosing to Die’ on BBC two (sadly I can’t seem to find this any more), in which he explored the possibility of ending his own life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. I have used parts of this programme in teaching about death and euthanasia, though not the end part, which is incredibly moving, where he witnesses someone taking his own life. Pratchett did an awful lot of good in raising awareness of Alzheimer’s, and, fortunately for him – and us – was able to continue writing for a significant time following the diagnosis.

So, as I said, I’ve now read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, and they have blown my mind. Literally. I mean, the capacity of my imagination is not great enough to take in these books. At first, I found it extremely difficult to read Pratchett’s writing, but after a while of coaxing myself to go with the flow, I got into it. Though I do have to re-read sentences quite often, which I am not used to. The text is so dense, I wonder how long it took to construct such a concise story with such wild imaginative detail. Reading his work hurts my brain. Not only is the writing incredibly clever, but it is also extremely humorous. It is unusual for a book to make me laugh out loud once, so I was surprised that I laughed several times in each book.

Watch what Pratchett (whose speech is mostly read by Tony Robinson) had to say about Alzheimer’s and death at the Dimbleby lecture here:

When Terry Pratchett’s death was announced on twitter, it is fitting that it comes in the voice of death from the Discworld novels, which I now understand. AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER. So Terry Pratchett was making it possible to talk about death, even before his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Rincewind, the failed magician, manages to escape Death several times when Death turns up to claim him.

I now feel I must continue to read the Discworld series. Which means I will probably have fun trawling car boots and book sales to collect the series.

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