Today my son wept and we were shaken by the death of Pratchett. We have loved and admired him since his first books. Only just this last week I read his non-fiction anthology and he gave me yet another gift. For I sometimes question the value of my Mabinogi work, important though it is to British and Welsh literature, and a key component of our hertage: the first … Not least my lady Rhiannon orders me.
But so much of my life has been about campaigning, fighting for freedom. Measured against that, the Mabinogi stories can seem frivolous, at least as a major life project. But TP writes eloquently on how fantasy is the seedbed of intelligence, so my uneasy conscience is satisfied. I also remember what I myself told him when I met him, which is so very relevant to the issue.
When I met Terry over 20 years ago I was keen to compliment his unique talent as a writer. So I told him how the only thing which got my beloved husband through the agony of supporting my awful miscarriage, was reading Pratchett by my bed. It kept him sane, and even in that gory time, it made him laugh. I was too preoccupied to share it as we so often did, but I was glad for him and very thankful to TP in a new way.
By the time I recounted this tale to Terry we two had recovered from the worst of the experience so I completely underestimated what a harsh tale it was. Terry’s face went slack with shock, and I saw how very gentle and human he was. Many years later now just, he was to write in a book of his non fiction, that he grew used to people telling him the awful situations his books helped them survive. But way back then, he was far from used to it.
Wee some would read Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha or Robin Morgan to hold on in the crux of pain. My man chose Pratchett and that was right too.
We met Terry because I had invited him as a speaker to my annual Pagan Halloween Festival in London, about 1991. My husband and I were both passionate admirers of his, and neither wanted to miss his talk. But one of us had to stay on duty to organise the festival. I gracefully conceded as I felt my beloved was just a bit more of a devotee. But I conceded only on condition my man filmed Terry’s talk for me to see later.
Well he tried. But within five minutes everyone was laughing so much it was almost impossible to hear much that Terry said. My beloved said he himself also went into serious acute gut pain from non-stop laughter. The worst was when half way through he needed to change the video tape, but he simply couldn’t because he was laughing paralytically and still in pain, sliding on to the floor.
So I never did see more than fragments of this lovely man talking at my own festival.
One thing I have noticed is that those speaking about Terry overlook an important aspect of his mind. They tell of his mighty imagination, his wit, his wonderful silliness, his courage in his long illness, generosity in funding research into that illness, and his warrior fight for the right to die by choice. All very true, There is also a book of Philosophy and Pratchett just come out last December. I think he was also a very kind man, a good, strong family male. All true, good stuff.
But what is being overlooked is Pratchett’s astute political grasp of society. He wanted us to look at the dirty side, and do something about it. Let’s hope the coming year is a good memorial to him.