Terry Pratchett embuggerance

I lost the first industry friend I made in the UK 4 years ago today when prominent IT writer Guy Kewney succumbed to a long battle with cancer. He confronted this megalithic scourge with the same irreverent gadfly spirit with which he took on the titans of technology over his career. In the end, his modest blog “Hunky Mouse” embraced of his condition in some of his most poignant stories he ever penned.

I was reminded of Guy reading the Sunday Times piece, “Hi, I’m just logging off for eternity” (paywalled), on Terry Pratchet who has his started his own online account of his affliction with Alzheimer’s in a further attempt to bring us to grips with our mortality speaking what has been for too long ‘unspeakable’…

  • “Terry Pratchett, another distinguished author, was equally funny. In 2007 he also posted online the news of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, describing it as an ‘embuggerance’ — a fine word, apparently emanating from the Ministry of Defence during the Falklands War — and saying he would ‘prefer it if people kept things cheerful’…Over the past 20 years there have been many other examples of big names choosing to die in public. The internet provides the opportunity. Banks and Pratchett both went online and adopted a distinctively webbish style — public yet intimate, upsetting yet consoling. But the internet is mere technology. What human desire has created the contemporary appetite for this detailed disclosure of the facts of our mortality? Not long ago such announcements would have been unthinkable. Talk of death or dying would have provoked a shudder of distaste and the speaker would have been ostracised. In the 1960s the anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer noticed that people he knew were offended by his decision to go into mourning after the death of his brother. ‘They clearly no longer had any guidance”, he wrote, ‘from ritual as to the way to treat a self-confessed mourner; and, I suspect, they were frightened lest I give way to my grief and involve them in a distasteful upsurge of emotion.’ In his 1965 book Death, Grief and Mourning in Contemporary Britain, he concluded that death had become to his generation what sex had been to the Victorians, something unspeakable: ‘The natural processes of corruption and decay have become disgusting, as disgusting as the natural processes of birth and copulation were a century go.’”