On death and Death

I don’t tend to write many personal posts, but this seemed worth putting pen to paper for.

Terry Pratchett died on the 12th. A lot has been said about it. People like Neil Gaiman, this blogger and this artist have said it far better than I can.

I’m no good at this sort of thing.  I don’t do eulogies and obituaries. Anything I say or write tends to sound hopelessly trite; I’m far better with characters than people. So instead, I’ll try talking about Death – yes, the one with a capital D.

It was odd – coincidentally,  I’d been talking to a friend about Discworld that day. My friend admired Vimes for his morals and his cynicism; he found the character relateable.

Now, my favourite character has always been Death. It took me a long time to understand why. Partly it’s because he gets all the best lines (this is not an opinion, this is fact, and I will argue with anyone who says otherwise). Partly, I think, it’s because he embodies what I love most about Pratchett’s work. He looks at humanity, and he’s more than a little confused by them; they’re petty, and tiny, and often relentlessly, frustratingly stupid. Yet he finds them fascinating. He walks with them, he watches them and he wonders about them. He, dare I say, likes them.

By offering us an outsider’s perspective – we see through the, er, eye sockets of a very alien character – Pratchett pokes fun at us: our vices, our virtues, and most often our flaws. He makes us consider what’s in the mirror all over again. But the conclusions we come to are far less bleak than they could be. Death shows us that we’re flawed and cruel, but he also shows us that we are funny, creative, kind. We screw up and we fall, but we are something worth saving. A powerful, universal force is fascinated by us and chooses to associate with us.

That’s my favourite thing about Pratchett’s work. So many people have talked about how funny he was – and believe me, I agree – but fewer have talked about how humanist his work was. I wrote in an earlier post about how the best books give us not just a good story, but an insight into their author. I felt like that about Discworld. I’m probably wrong (after all, I didn’t know the man) but I always got the sense that, a bit like Death, Pratchett thought we were idiots but believed we could do better – and that just sometimes, we did.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of sci-fi and fantasy. Pratchett was a favourite of my dad’s, and so I grew up surrounded by his work. The philosophy I found in his books is part of what made me who I am. His work was one of the main reasons I started writing. But I will say this – on the bad days, it’s very easy to lose faith in humanity. Pratchett’s books showed a sad, scared kid that perhaps things weren’t as bad as all that.

And then that kid grew up, started jotting down her own pretentious scribblings, and started a blog. So here we are. That’s why he’s my favourite author, and has been since I was knee-high.

R.I.P. The world has lost one of its best.

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2 thoughts on “On death and Death

  1. M.M.J. Gregory says:

    Well said. I haven’t read but a few of his books, which I am rectifying now, but even those few made me feel an attachment to him. I was surprised by the amount of sadness I felt on learning about his death. I’m still sad.

    The non-character, pseudo narrated lines are the only ones that rival Death’s for me so far. 😉

    • Fae says:

      It took me a bit by surprise, too. I think it did for everyone.

      Yeah, agreed. And some of the footnotes. I’m reading Mort at the moment, and Death is seriously my favourite.

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