The book world took a big knock when Terry Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year. One of the most popular novelists of our time, selling over 60 million copes of his books worldwide, Terry Pratchett – Living With Alzheimer’s was a public view into his world, an insight into the daily battle he fights.
It’s worth noting that I’m not a huge Pratchett fan. While I understand why his books are popular, they’ve never really done it for me, so I wasn’t watching this show with any kind of immediate connection to Pratchett. That said, I am a writer, and seeing an author lose his ability to type and do what he does best was horrible. He actually said that the when he noticed something was wrong – he could form plots in his head, but for the first time, he had trouble getting them down on paper. A chilling, all too practical way to find out you have a degenerative disease.
Pratchett has since donated £1million to Alzheimer’s research. He wasn’t expecting them to find a cure tomorrow, but you could still sense that there was hope in his voice that they might. He has spoken out about the disease in a way that no one else has. He was angry that other diseases got more coverage and donations. With this programme, you couldn’t help but think he was hiding behind his campaign. It was only through being filmed that he started to face up to what was happening to him.
It wasn’t easy to watch sometimes. Being introduced on the radio by a presenter who said, “well, he’s not dead yet” was anything but funny. And when he admitted he was scared to meet people with Alzheimer’s because it would be like seeing his own future, I couldn’t help but be moved.
The book signings and conferences were the worst parts to watch. On the face of it, Terry Pratchett didn’t seem to be suffering badly. A lot of the standard symptoms – forgetfulness, losing track of thoughts – are things that he said he did every day. When it did affect him, it was often in public and in front of his fans.
This was the first of two parts and it was compelling viewing. I started off finding Pratchett’s crusade slightly grating, but his frankness and vulnerability towards the end of the show made this very moving indeed.