Tuesday, 17 May 2011

“All tribal myths are true, for a given value of 'true’'

The Last Continent
by Terry Pratchett
“All tribal myths are true, for a given value of 'true’'.(p.10)
This is a book that messes with the tribal myths of my own culture and while Disc world is an independent fantasy world, there  is no denying that it is very much a ‘mirror of worlds’ and in the case of 'The Last Continent the world that it is mirroring is Australia.  The result could so easily have been a truly cringe worthy parody but in the hands of a great writer with an observant eye and a natural affection for his subject matter this is another wise and entertaining satire, that explores not just the traditional dreaming of indigenous culture but the dreaming of my own relatively recent, Anglo-Saxon migrant culture.  Australian cultural icons abound in this text, from movies like Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert to the archetypal stories that seem to define Australian identity like The Man From Snowy River, waltzing matilda and the bushranger legend. 
A Rincewind novel, this story sees the bumbling wizard invent our iconic vegemite in the form of a kind of ‘beer soup’ that goes well spread on bread, while trying to save the continent from the interminable dry spell that is threatening it’s very existence.   In building a story around our climatic extremes Pratchett taps into what is at the very heart of our identity: environment.  
The best elements of this novel however do not revolve around Rincewind’s exploits but around the misadventures of the UU faculty after they become trapped on a primitive island in the company of their female housekeeper.  While Rincewind is not one of my favourite characters, Archchancellor Ridcully  and the orang-utan UU librarian are very definitely amongst my favourite Discworld characters.  This section of the novel allows Pratchett to play with the logical challenges of time travel and creation myths while allowing the wizards to spark off each other in a highly entertaining interlude.  I think perhaps I will leave this post here with a favourite line:  "Ridcully was to management what King Herod was to the Bethlehem Playgroup Association. "
The Last Continent also provides the name for the Australian Discworld convention, “Nullus Anxietas”, (no worries) and provides the visual narrative that appears on the convention t shirt which I have added to my collection of literary t shirts, ( click on image to follow link to where the shirt can be purchased), or here: http://ausdwcon.org/pages/merchandise
On Sir Terry’s recent visit to Australia he also appeared at the Sydney Opera House where he appeared in conversation with the Australian fantasy author Garth Nix, below is the link to where you can see the video of this chat at the round worlds version of the Disc’s “Buggerup opera house”:                          

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