Disclaimer: No knitting content this time. But this is important to me.
On Thursday night, I cried.
I had just opened the homepage of our local newspaper to get one last look at what was new before I went to bed, when I saw a picture of Terry Pratchett on the first page. “Discworld-Author Terry Pratchett Dead”.
I stared and thought: ›Oh no.‹ And when I read the twitter messages, the tears started to flow.
I didn’t know about Terry Pratchett and his books until 2000 – “The Fifth Elephant” had just been published, I think. I was writing for our school magazine then and one of my “colleagues” managed to contact Terry Pratchett via E-mail. I read the interview with interest and decided that I’d give Pratchett a try. I went to the local library and checked out Witches Abroad.
My first and last-read book by Terry
Now, I’d love to say something along the lines of: “From this moment, I was hooked and bought every single one of his books and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship” – but I want to be honest here. The problem with Pratchett’s books (the only problem, that is) is this: You have to read them in English. Most of the jokes are funny because they are puns. Or homophones. Since these cannot be translated into German*, the books made me smile – yes – but I was wondering what made them so outstanding. Remember: I was 14, and I had been learning English for three years only so far, and reading English books in the original was still way too hard.
I loved the characters, though. Nanny Ogg quickly became one of my favourites and as I read Reaper Man, Death became another one. Equal Rites, Small Gods, Mort and Guards! Guards!, followed, then came The Hogfather. Until now, my favourite books are about the witches, the Feegles, Death and the Night Watch.
I cannot remember my first English Discworld novel. But I remember my reaction very well: While the German translations had made me smile and sometimes grin, the originals now managed to have me in stitches. There have been so many articles now on what is so brilliant about Terry Pratchett’s books (of course, the Discworld novels are only part of his whole work), and many have voiced it much better than I could do that – so I can only tell you what makes them outstanding for me.
They are wise. They are funny. They are benign, and yet there is an irony in them whose sharpness is equal to Dickens’. They are clever and witty, and most of all: They are true. What you learn about character, about motives, the ways of the world, about people while having a good laugh is amazing.
They are also very well written and feature characters who are real – you love them and they annoy you and they become real friends and companions. When you read the dialogues, you hear the conversation and if you are a bit unlucky, you can also smell the Ankh.
I put a love letter between the pages of Reaper Man when I was 16 years old and lend the book to my boyfriend at that time. The Wintersmith kept me company in 2008 when I went to Cornwall for six weeks, and the book immediately started a conversation with the girls sitting next to me before I had read ten pages. I remember sitting on a lawn on campus during summer time, talking with a friend about literature and being told: “Man, you have to read Carpe Juggulum! That’s one of the best Discworld novels ever!”. I finished I Shall Wear Midnight late at night and was moved to tears by the Author’s Afterword and I was howling with laughter over some passages in Night Watch. Two years ago, while I was on holiday with Philipp, I took Unseen Academicals with me and was crying with laughter about the poem “Oi! To his Deaf Mistress”.
I own DVDs of the broadcasts of Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters and was over the moon with joy when I could get my hands on the movies Hogfather, Going Postal and The Colour of Magic. While watching The Colour of Magic, I knit my very first pair of socks.
Last summer, while I was taking part in the summer tournament of “Nerd Wars”, my team “1 More Page” was discussing Pratchett and his books during one round, because it had been announced that he had to cancel his appareance at Dragon Con due to his health issues. I made Socks for Nanny Ogg afterwards.
On Friday, the day after I had heard the news, I took out Reaper Man and started to read it to Philipp. And while I was reading and he was laughing and I was remembering how it was when I read the book for the very first time, there was a melancholy in the words that hadn’t been there before.
There are so many places on discworld I haven’t visited, so many characters I have yet to meet. It pains me that now I have all the time in the world to check them out, because there won’t be any more books to come. It seems so unfair that such a wise, talented man had to be plagued by that damn illness and had to go on so early while so many villains remain. That’s not how it is in the stories.
My only consolation is the thought that he probably did still know where he was going. Because, as he had put it in I Shall Wear Midnight:
“It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”
Goodbye, Sir Terry. I’ll miss you.
*I remember one incident in which there had to be a lengthy footnote by the translator why the dialogue: “What is your name?” – “Quoth”, said the raven. – “Quoth the raven?” was funny (with longish explanations about this being an allusion to Poe’s poem “Nevermore”) … Which left me like: “Oh, now I get it. Haha.”