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Terry Pratchett: Death, I made him popular

Sir Terry Pratchett was in fine form during his hour-long performance at Hay Festival, made all the more poignant due to the slot being scheduled directly after a talk on Alzheimer’s.
One of the most commercially successful authors of all time, Pratchett has recently made headlines for speaking publicly on the topic after he was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease in 2008.
However his business at Hay was purely on the subject of his work, and with the help of his assistant, Rob Wilkins, the audience was treated to the inner workings of Pratchett’s literary mind, which is still as sharp as ever.
The talk started with Pratchett being formally awarded the Bollinger Wodehouse prize, which saw him having a pig named after his book, Snuff. The prize for comic writing signalled the beginning of a talk that had fans calling him back for more.
An hour wasn’t even enough time to touch the tip of the iceberg in the career of a man who manages to fuse satire, political commentary and fantasy with ease.
When asked by a member of the audience if he wished he was taken more seriously, he retorted “no I bloody don’t”, before going on to say that he never wished to be respected by the Turner Prize panel, and was happy enough being rich.
Another audience member asked him if he was frightened of death, to which he replied: “I can’t be bothered about death, I have made him so popular that he owes me one... I’m bothered about dying badly but everybody is.”
He was even forthcoming when giving advice to young writers, telling them to steer well clear of mimicking his style of writing, but telling them: “Look at how the best did it, but don’t try to write like me... that’s suicide.”
Whether or not he intended to use the word which has appeared next to his name so often in newspaper headlines of late we will never know, but this talk made it clear that Pratchett is still an institution. He still has work in him, and if his current works are anything to go by, it might just be his best ever.
From his anecdotes about the writing of new novel, The Long Earth, which had the working title of Quantum Bollocks, it seems as though readers have much to look forward to in his collaboration with sci-fi legend Stephen Baxter.
It is set in a world predicted by quantum physicists, with infinite versions of Earth. Humans can jump from one world to the next after draining our world for resources, but still manage to “bugger things up” according to Pratchett.
By Richard Beech

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