DEATH explains something important to his granddaughter Susan in the TV adaptation of the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel, Hogfather. DEATH doesn’t say it, but humans need something else too. Humor. Pratchett gave us both. He helped readers be human more than any other contemporary writer I know.
As many of you know, there are times---plenty of times. Well, most times.---when I believe the only real good I’ve accomplished with this blog is introducing readers to the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is one of my favorite authors of all time and I think the greatest novelist of at least the last fifteen years.
And now he’s gone.
I’ll be a while getting my thoughts together to write about it. Meantime, everything I have written here about Sir Terry and Discworld is collected here: News from Discworld. Mostly it’s a collection of quotes from the novels, but that’s a sign of how great a writer is, when you’d rather quote him than talk about him and you can pick up any of his books, open to just about any page, and there’s something worth quoting. No. Not quoting. Reading.
Anyway, here’s one. I’m pretty sure Pratchett was looking ahead when he wrote it and imagining his own final conversation with DEATH who, in case you don’ know, is a major character in the novels and always speaks in CAPITAL LETTERS.
Windle didn’t look around.
Out of the corner of his eye Windle saw a pair of bony arms rest themselves on the parapet. There was a faint sound of a figure trying to make itself comfortable, then a restful silence.
“Ah,” said Windle. “I suppose you’ll want to be getting along?”
“I thought you were always so punctual.”
IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, A FEW MINUTES MORE WILL NOT MAKE A LOT OF DIFFERENCE.
Windle nodded. They stood side by side in silence, while around them was the muted roar of the city.
“You know,” said Windle, “it’s a wonderful after-life. Where were you?”
I WAS BUSY.
Windle wasn’t really listening. “I’ve met people I never even knew existed. I’ve done all sorts of things. I’ve really got to know who Windle Poons is.”
WHO IS HE, THEN?
I CAN SEE WHERE THAT MUST HAVE COME AS A SHOCK.
ALL THESE YEARS AND YOU NEVER SUSPECTED.
Windle did know exactly what irony meant, and he could spot sarcasm too.
“It’s all very well for you,” he mumbled.
Windle looked down at the river again.
“It’s been great,” he said. “After all this time. Being needed is important.”
YES. BUT WHY?
Windle looked surprised.
“I don’t know. How should I know? Because we’re all in this together, I suppose. Because we don’t leave our people in there. Because you’re a long time dead. Because anything is better than being alone. Because humans are humans.”
AND SIXPENCE IS SIXPENCE. BUT CORN IS NOT JUST CORN.
Windle leaned back. The stone of the bridge was still warm from the day’s heat.
To his surprise, Death leaned back as well.
BECAUSE YOU’RE ALL YOU’VE GOT, said Death.
“What? Oh. Yes. That as well. It’s a great big cold universe out there.
YOU’D BE AMAZED.
“One lifetime just isn’t enough.”
OH, I DON’T KNOW.
THAT WAS YOUR LIFE.
And, with great relief, and general optimism, and a feeling that on the whole everything could have been much worse, Windle Poons died.
---from Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.