Terry Pratchett on Magic and Realism

Terry PratchettbAn Unboxed Blog from Electra Nanou

There was once a tape, a single, innocuous video tape, living in the UEA Archives’ snug depths. The name, Terry Pratchett, sometimes caught a knowing eye, but one or two were not enough. If only it could see the light of day, other admirers might come its way. Squinting, stuttering, it finally emerged to puff out its chest and squeak:

Arthur Miller Centre International Literary Festival (UEA) interview with Terry Pratchett, 22 November 2000

To describe this interview between Professor Christopher Bigsby and Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld novels, as amusing would be an understatement. Having passed away two years ago, almost to the day, every reminder of this man’s sheer character is precious. Contained within the video recording is more than a discussion on Pratchett’s life and literary accomplishments or his favourite Discworld characters or even the difference between children’s fiction and fantasy.

‘Children’s books for the respect; fantasy books for the money.’

It is one more testament to his wit and flair, as well as a tutorial on how to politely dominate an interview. And how to introduce potentially controversial topics with a smile. Perhaps, sheer naughtiness factored into certain small omissions in the transcript, available in Writers in Conversation: Volume 5 by Christopher Bigsby.

Even the first Discworld novel was created on a rebellious whim. He felt that ‘a kind of antidote’ was warranted to the Tolkienesque fantasy prevalent of the time. Little did he know how much it was needed. The crowd that attended the Terry Pratchett Memorial in April 2016, made up of children and adults alike, was proof of how important a fresh and humorous look can be to something as simple as a literary genre.

‘Discworld is a way of looking at a story.’

Each of his books, from the children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents to the Discworld novel The Truth, have something to say. In his own unique way, he touched on issues like morality, equality and feminism, his philosophical undercurrents drawing the attention of philosophy professors James M. Held and James South. They produced a book titled Philosophy and Terry Pratchett, a collection of essays including ‘Plato, the Witch, and the Cave: Granny Weatherwax and the Moral Problem of Paternalism’ and ‘The Importance of Being in the Right Trouser Leg of Time’ (The Guardian). When asked about the Thief of Time, the 24th Discworld novel, Pratchett said:

‘It is… about how people perceive time, how people perceive humanity. What is it that actually makes us human.’

If there is any lesson to be learned from Terry Pratchett, it is to not be afraid to be bold and different. Labels are trivial in a world that craves imagination, an escape from reality.

‘Magic realism … is fantasy with a collar and tie on.’

With 53 books to his name not including his numerous collaborations, he was, and still is, someone writers of any genre can look up to. He lived, learnt and struggled, while writing from his heart with minimal aspirations to fame and fortune. And yet they found him.

 

Sources

Recording: Arthur Miller Centre International Literary Festival (UEA) interview with Terry Pratchett, 22 November 2000. The University of East Anglia Literary Festival Archive www.uea.ac.uk/bacw/litfest – visit the Archive to view the recording in full.

Transcript: Bigsby, Christopher. ‘In Conversation with Terry Pratchett’. Writers in Conversation: Volume 5. Unthank books, 2013. Print.

Flood, Alison. ‘Terry Pratchett’. The Guardian. 28 Nov. 2014. Web. Oct. 2016

 

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