“AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”
For anyone who has been a fan of the wit and writing of Terry Pratchett, those words were a fitting pronouncement that he had passed on from life. Whenever words appeared in CAPS in the Discworld novels [of which there are 40] it signalled the arrival of Death, who was a beloved and often misunderstood character [and my personal favourite] who came to lead disenfranchised souls away from their bodies after physical death had taken place.
That tweet was accompanied by this one:
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
There was a time when there were so many christian-themed books i was wanting to read that i used to say that Terry Pratchett was my ‘guilty pleasure’ in terms of being the only fiction novelist i would clear space for. He was just that good. And even though i have diversified my reading over the last couple of years, especially as i am reading more books to help me understand my country [Robert Sobukwe, Antjie Krog] and the world [currently busy with ‘The Lemon Tree’ which is about Israel and Palestine], Terry Pratchett and the next Discworld would always jump to the front of the queue and news of a new book on the way would get my adrenalin flowing.
He was just that good.
i stumbled upon Jasper Fforde who wrote books about characters in well-known stories being real and alive and the convergence between the real and the printed world. i really enjoyed his Thursday Next character and the books that he wrote… but at the same time i refer to him as a poor man’s Pratchett. i just don’t know that anyone will come close [Douglas Adams at his prime may have been worthy to pour Terry a drink].
Yesterday i shared a post that my friend Megan, a self-confessed atheist, wrote about me, which was such a powerful read for me to hear what i already knew, that despite Megan and myself being so different in some key fundamental life issues, we have found that we can still be good friends and connect on some of the deepest of levels in other really significant matters.
In a similar way, Terry Pratchett was a self-confessed atheist, but he wrote what i think is one of the most powerful pieces of Christian evangelistic prose in a section of one of his Discworld books [that i refer to in my about-to-be-released book ‘i, church’] that showed that he, more than so many of us, really seemed to get it. i feel like he nails the heart of the gospel, really touching on the premise of WHAT IF THIS STUFF IS TRUE…
This is from the book titled ‘Carpe Jugulum’ which is a play on the latin of Carpe Diem [Seize the day] and as it is a story about vampires, is more aptly, ‘Seize the Throat’ and in this passage a young priest from a religion where the god is called Om is walking along with a witch called Granny Weatherwax who is a wily old lady who uses headology [making people believe in the power they think you have but focusing more on herbs and passed down knowledge than actual magic] more than magic to maintain the power people see her as having…
“They walked on in silence. A shower of hail bounced off Granny’s
pointed hat and Oat’s wide brim.
Then Granny said, “It’s no good you trying to make me believe in Om,
“Om forbid that I should try, Mistress Weatherwax. I haven’t even
given you a pamphlet, have I?”
“No, but you’re trying to make me think, “Oo, what a nice young man,
his god must be something special if nice young men like him helps
old ladies like me,” aren;t you?”
“Really? Well it’s not working. People you can believe in,
sometimes, but not gods. And I’ll tell you this Mister Oats…”
He sighed. “Yes?”
She turned to face him, suddenly alive. “it’d be as well for you if
I didn’t believe,” she said, prodding him with a sharp finger. “This
Om…anyone seen him?”
“It is said three thousand people witnessed his manifestation at the
Great Temple when he made the Covenant with the prophet Brutha and
saved him from death by torture on the iron turtle-“
“But I bet that now they’re arguing about what they actually saw,
“Well, indeed, yes, there are many opinions-“
“Right. Right. That’s people for you. Now if I’d seen him, really
there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I thought there
was some god who really did care two hoots about people, and who
watched ‘em like a father and cared for ‘em like a mother…well,
you wouldn’t catch me saying things like “There are two sides to
every question,” and “We must respect other peoples beliefs.” You
wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all
turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like
an unforgivin’ sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, cos that’s
what it’d be. You say that your people don’t burn folk and sacrifice
people any more, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see?
Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame,
declarin’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it.
THAT’S religion. Anything else is just…is just bein’ nice. And a
way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbours.
She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice. “Anyway,
that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And I don’t think that’s
fashionable right now, ‘cos it seems that if you sees evil now you
have to wring your hands and say, “Oh deary me, we must debate
this.” That’s my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let
things lie. Don’t chase faith, ‘cos you’ll never catch it.” She
added, almost as an aside, “But, perhaps, you can live faithfully.”
Her teeth chattered as a gust of icy wind flapped her wet dress
around her legs.
“You got another book of holy words on you?” she added.
“No,” said Oats, still shocked. He thought: my god, if she ever
finds a religion, what would come out of those mountains and sweep
across the plains?”
[Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum]
i’m not sure exactly what Terry’s journey with faith looked like, but it seems like this passage was a shout out to the church, saying, “Hey you lot, imagine what the world would look like if you really believed what you say you believed?” with a little tongue in cheek in the saying of it. Which is exactly what my book is about. a lot of people have very negative opinions of the church because we have by and large [generally speaking] been very unchurchlike. What if that changed? i think Terry Pratchett got that somehow.
For me one thing stand out about his writing – his way of creating metaphors [and similes] where he would compare two things you would never put together and somehow make it completely work.
“And education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs ad then you had the urge to pass it on.” [Hogfather]
“Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it.” [The Last Continent]
“Using a metaphor in front of a man as unimaginative as Ridcully was like a red flag to a bu… was like putting something very annoying in front of someone who was annoyed by it.” [Lords and Ladies]
That and his creation of… Two things stand about about his writing – clever metaphors and his creation of fascinating characters such as not only Death but Death of Rats [because being much smaller they needed a more rat-sized death to deal with them], Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler, Carrot the human who was raised thinking he was just a realy big dwarf and countless others… and also his ability to…
Amongst the things that stand out for me about Terry Pratchett’s writing are such diverse elements as… metaphor, incredible character and world creation, taking modern day concepts/icons/movie references and working them seamlessly into his novels, making spot-on observances about life and people and presenting them subtly through the telling of his own stories and much much more…
With special mention for some of the best character names for the camels that inhabited the Discworld, from ‘You Bastard’ and ‘You Vicious Brute’ all the way through Evil-Brother-In-Law-Of-A-Jackal, Evil-minded Son Of A Bitch’ and ‘Evil-Smelling Bugger’ to ‘Bloody Stupid’ which, despite my lack of experience with camels, seems just about right.
Terry, you will be so deeply missed. Strength and love to your family and thousands if not millions of fans around the world. You created a world where we could escape and laugh and be mesmerised, tickled and horrified, often all at the same time. But for me, more than any other author i have known, you made the silly and the fun and the outright ridiculous come alive.