Thursday, 13 December 2007

"May you live in interesting times."

Terry Pratchett has an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s a damn shame; indeed, an embuggerance. He’s a great writer, particularly for teenage readers. His particular brand of anarchic, cynical, and surreal humour is virtually unique. The way his style of parody straddles not just literature but satire of the real world, the conventions of life and philosophy is nothing short of brilliant and consistently hilarious. ‘The Colour of Magic’ despite being a parody of fantasy novels is probably the first fantasy novel I ever loved. I definitely read it before ‘The Lord of the Rings’ so I guess before Peter Jackson and Tolkien launched my love of fantasy/sci-fi literature, Pratchett was there laying the groundwork. Starting with Pratchett is a good thing; it allows one to recognise the tropes and clichés of fantasy early consequently making one ever-vigilant for lazy writing in ‘serious’ fantasy works.

With any disease this news would be sad but with Alzheimer’s it makes it a tragedy. Pratchett has always been great at creating a vivid world, made all the better because it’s so dense with intertwining characters, objects, and numerous events. His encyclopaedic memory and knowledge of Discworld in particular breathed life into the books and made Ankh-Morpork a more realistic city than Minas Tirith ever was.

Alzheimer’s represents one of the great nightmares of human life; to gradually lose one’s sense of self and personal identity. Without that sense of memory, reason, and true consciousness we become a bag of intuitions and sentiment. The dichotomy between reason and intuition fails and what’s left? Without one’s goals and memories we become what Sandel called the unencumbered self: except where his was an abstraction to criticise liberalism, this is reality. A self devoid of everything it has worked for. A wraith. Alzheimer’s sucks.

Mr. Pratchett broke the news with typical stoic good-humour. Let’s hope he has enough energy and time to share as much of his powerfully weird mind with the world as he can.

1 comment:

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