Some time during the first half of the 1990’s I was working one of the cash registers at a big department store in Stockholm, Sweden. That particular register was the hub in the middle of three different sections – the music section, the book section and the toy section (yes, I must admit that it was a pretty sweet deal).
One day I was browsing through the books, and came across a paperback called ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ – it was pretty thick, as it claimed to contain the complete series of all four books (little did I know…).
I read the back of this book – all the time with this big smile on my face. It seemed so completely wacky! So strange! So….so, whatever! I just had to buy it!
And yes, I BOUGHT it – just because I worked at the store doesn’t mean I willy-nilly took stuff right off the shelf.
It had been a long time since I became so totally engrossed in a book – let alone four of them! I read that paperback in what felt like the blink of an eye, and then I read it again. I read it until the pages actually started falling out.
Cut to about five years later, my guess is that the year was 1997. I was no longer working at the department store, but instead made my living in the Stockholm Underground System (as in underground trains, not rebellious activities). I was the one who travelled between stations, with a bag full of tickets and a lot of heavy change , to the different ticket booths providing the ticket salespersons with what they needed to continue working through the day.
At one booth, while the guy who was working there was counting up money for me, I noticed this ridiculously over-coloured paperback sitting on the desk.
“What’s this?”, I said, picking it up.
“You don’t know?”, he responded.
“No”, I said, looking at the cover, which had an over saturated, madly colourful and messy picture on it. It seemed to be that of a skeleton of sorts, dressed in a santa costume and riding in a sleigh being pulled by huge pigs… The title made it clear that this was not santa, but someone called Hogfather. Preposterous!
I turned it over to read the back and, as anyone that has ever read the back of a Pratchett-book could tell you, if you are not aware of his universe, his characters or his style – that short text on the back makes no sense at all!
There is someone called “Mr.Teatime”?
And another one named “Susan Sto Helit”?
The Tooth Fairy is in this?!
And Death – who by the way seem to have a grand daughter??!!
-What the hell is this?!
I let my eyes scan the back of the book – which by the way had more of that insane cover image – and suddenly I noticed a snippet from a review. I am not at home now, so I cannot check exactly what this snippet said, but the gist of it was that this book was “like The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on drugs”.
That was all I needed. Here was this book being compared with a book (or series of books) that I thus far had found NOTHING else to compare them with. I simply HAD to buy this book.
So I did.
And I read it.
All of it.
I understood almost everything.
Some of it was really funny.
Some of it – MOST of it – was really strange.
But NONE of it made any sense to me – at all!
It wasn’t until after I had finished it that I realized that this was the 20th book in a series called The Discworld! No wonder I couldn’t really wrap my head around everything.
Now, to be fair, Terry Pratchett’s books never demand of its readers that they have read the preceeding stories, but twenty books in it certainly helps – to a degree – if you have.
I started buying other books in the series, first by recommendation from colleagues at work (“You’ve got to read ‘Guards! Guards!’“, “You read ‘Hogfather’ without first having read ‘Mort’, that’s insane!”), but pretty soon I just decided to go at it in order – starting with ‘The Colour Of Magic’ and working my way down the list.
To date I have read all of the Discworld-books (except the last one, ‘Raising Steam’), and most of them I have read several times over.
My english vocabulary, that has never really been neither slim or even moderate, has managed to become even greater. I sometimes feel I communicate as good – if not better – in english than in my native toungue.
I essence, Terry Pratchett changed me, and changed the way I read books.
Terry Pratchett and his Discworld-books have given me countless hours of joy, and they will continue to do so, as I through the coming years will read them again, and again, and again.
I met Pratchett once.
Not in any kind of life altering meeting of chance or anything, but at a book signing.
Him and Neil Gaiman – they signed my dog eared copy of ‘Good Omes’.
I said nothing, standing there in front of him, watching him sign my book, and then reaching for the book being held by the person behind me.
I wish I HAD said something.
I wish I had told him this.
All of this.
For all the countless hours of joy…
For all the nail biting excitement…
For all the convoluted words…
For all the quirky footnotes…
For all those remarkable characters…
For all that wonderful imagination…
…I will miss you, forever and ever!
1948 – 2015