16.3.15

Terry Pratchett : In Homage

Let me take you back in time. About 10 years ago, I decided to use my first pay check to do something worthwhile in New York city - I decided to buy a book in the Midtown Borders. When I stepped into the fiction section, I instinctively knew which book I just had to buy - Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume. I had some change left over, so I also bought this tiny paperback which was under $10 - Thud! (Discworld Book 34). Bone, I finished in a marathon night reading session; Thud took me a while to finish and I totally didn't get it and found the characters unappealing - especially the main character, one Samuel Vimes (ohh, the irony). Come the next paycheck, I was back at Borders. And despite not taking a liking to Sam Vimes, I figured no harm done in putting down some change for a book whose cover looked more interesting - Going Postal. This was one of those seminal moments of my life that I look back to - mostly in surprise that I could show such good judgement when it came to picking a book. 10 years later, I have read almost all of the Discworld books, some more of the YA books that Pratchett wrote.

And now Sir Terry is no more. What words can you write when a beloved author dies? The written word is permanent. When it came from the pen of the inimitable Sir Terry Pratchett, these words would start out colorful, rise to become satirical and eventually end sublime. Pratchett's writing brought me joy and a lot of wisdom. His death last week has been shocking and heart breaking. To feel such emotion for a person I've never met or even seen can only be explained by the influence his work has had on me.

Pratchett's work in my mind is best described as anti-Tolkien satire. Where Tolkien insisted on a black and white view of his fantasy universe, Pratchett found nuances and counter view points that belied their middle class origins. Fantastical creatures were turned into regular folk with regular problems - dwarves trying to find tunnel food in a big city, trolls with dental problems, vampires trying to overcome addiction to blood and ordinary humans trying to live a normal life. He had a gift of making a hero out of an ordinary person - a runaway girl looking for her brother, a convicted criminal dragooned into working for the society, simple monks who are overtaken by events. Every Discworld book of his explores such stories - of defeat, DEATH, ridicule, jingoism and the eventual triumph of all that is good - kind of, sort of - over these adversities.

What made Discworld different from run-of-the-mill good versus evil books, is the biting humor and the cynical satire. His books were pretty topical and yet remained accessible in the shroud of the Discworld. He wrote about jingoistic aggression, avaricious banking, ethics of artificial intelligence, religious conflict and about life and DEATH. The Discworld books put a cloak of fantasy on these real world problems, but always had a clear message - of being good, of doing right and of living a good life. A lot my thought has been influenced by his liberal thought articulated so well in his books.

The void that his death has left can possibly never be filled, but his words are always in my heart. I wish I could thank him for the happiness that he brought to my life.

WORDS IN THE HEART CANNOT BE TAKEN.
GNU Terry Pratchett.