Saturday, 18 April 2015 00:00

Good Reads – Somewhere between fantasy and reality

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Photo: Meredith (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wise words from the master of fantasy or just a bit of a joke?

Another week, another selection of journalistic gems, compiled by one of the E&M editorial team: Frances Jackson on the death of Terry Pratchett, untold stories of those seeking asylum in Europe and a group of particularly determined French cycling enthusiasts.

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor


A fond farewell

It is just over a month since one of the brightest literary lights of the last 30 years went out. Whether his most famous books took place for you in the Disque-monde, Zeměplocha, Scheibenwelt or Mundodisco, the magic of Terry Pratchett remains the same. His humour could be biting, but never caustic; the universe he created an escapist fantasy, and yet so very familiar; his stories simply unputdownable. 

The Discworld novels have been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. They were the audiobooks that alleviated boredom on long drives down France during the summer holidays, the increasingly care-worn paperbacks we passed back and forth amongst family and friends, the television adaptations we used to get so excited about as children. I don’t mind admitting that I got a little teary when I heard the news that Sir Terry's struggle with early-onset Alzheimer's was over. The loss, not just to the genre, but I think also perhaps to the world as a whole, is immense. The ranks of those rare few who have a real understanding of human nature, who recognise the follies of man, but have not lost their faith in humanity, are bereft of one of their finest standard-bearers.

Clearly no substitute for the books themselves, I'd still like to share this compendium of some of Pratchett's best quotes. They made me smile and I hope they might encourage the as yet uninitiated amongst our readers to give the great man a try.

The European promised land

Although the plight of refugees in Europe has become a firm fixture in the media, with concern heightened by repeated loss of life on the perilous crossing to Lampedusa, what is less frequently reported is the fact that not all those seeking asylum come from afar. The war in Kosovo may have long since come to an end, but recent months have seen increasing numbers of its people trying their luck in Western Europe, albeit with little success. The decision to up sticks and leave is motivated by a number of factors, both economic and social, not least, it would seem, if this article from Kosovo 2.0 is anything to go by, the machinations of the rumour mill.

The piece does have its ups and downs, however it articulates quite clearly the gulf between fantasy and reality, and the consequences that such an exodus can have on the society left behind. I was also pleased to see that the opening quote stems from dramatist Jeton Neziraj. I've read several of Neziraj's plays and have a great deal of time for his unflinching ability to puncture all manner of egos. He ought to be far more famous than he is.

Paving the way

Cycling cobbles
Photo: VISITFLANDERS (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In danger of becoming a thing of the past?

Lastly, on slightly more upbeat note, I was tickled by an article in the Wall Street Journal about tireless efforts to restore cobblestoned roads on the route of the Paris-Roubaix cycling race, which took place last Sunday. Such is the scale of the problem that the volunteers will probably never be short of something to do, but they do not let trifling matters like that deter them. The author paints a very affectionate picture of their work and some of the descriptions, in particular, are wonderful – anyone fancy "a root canal for the road"?

Having done my own fair share of cycling over cobbles, I can't say I quite understand why somebody would actively seek out such a pursuit, but I like the doggedness of their endeavour, the dedication to a cause – in spite of the relentless advance of tarmacked roads. There's a lesson in there somewhere for us all, I'm sure.


Last modified on Sunday, 19 April 2015 16:04
Frances Jackson

Frances Jackson is a former E&M editor and occasional contributor. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Munich, where she is pursuing a PhD in Czech poetry. Given the chance, Frances would probably spend all of her time in kitchen and is currently cooking her way around the world. She has also been known to dabble in literary translation.

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