Unseen Academicals

Exams are over for now (so blogging should be back to normal – no more reposts..) and I spent yesterday reading a Discworld novel. It was able to take my mind off exams and exam-related stuff completely for most of a day. That said, I don’t think it’s one of his best novels. A central theme of the book is the age-old one about an individual’s struggle to break out of the role created for him (/her) by the expectations of others. It’s also about foot-the-ball. I laughed out loud several times so it wasn’t too disappointing, but on the other hand it’s a quite long book (540 pages) so in a way I would have been very surprised if I hadn’t, considering the fact that it’s a Pratchett novel. A few quotes from the book:

i. “Regrettably, when he’d gone to check on things with the previous Master of The Traditions, who, everyone agreed, had not been seen around and about lately, he’d found that the man had been dead for two hundred years. This wasn’t a wholly unusual circumstance. Ponder, after years at Unseen, still didn’t know the full size of the faculty. […]
‘Er, I would have been happier had my predecessor paid a little more attention to some of the traditions,’ said Ponder, who believed in drip-feeding bad news.
‘Well, he was dead.’
‘Yes, of course. Perhaps, sir, we should, ahem, start a tradition of checking on the health of the Master of The Traditions?’
‘Oh, he was quite healthy,’ said the Archchancellor. ‘Just dead. Quite healthy for a dead man.’
‘He was a pile of dust, Archchancellor!’
‘That’s not the same as being ill, exactly,’ said Ridcully, who believed in never giving in. ‘Broadly speaking, it’s stable.'”

ii. “It is said that the onlooker sees most of the game. But the Librarian could smell as well, and the game, seen from outside, was humanity. Not a day went past without his thanking the magical accident that had moved him a few little genes away from it. Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, ‘The mountain is, and is not.’ They would think, ‘The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.'”

iii. “The laws of favours are amongst the most fundamental in the multiverse. The first law is: nobody asks for just one favour; the second request (after the granting of the first favour), prefaced by ‘and can I be really cheeky …?’ is the asking of the second favour. If the aforesaid second request is not granted, the second law ensures that the need for any gratitude for the first favour is nullified, and in accordance with the third law the favour giver has not done any favours at all, and the favour field collapses.”

iv. “By his own admission, he would rather run ten miles, leap a five-bar gate and climb a big hill than engage in any athletic activity. […] he didn’t like people much, an affliction that affects many who have to deal with the general public over a long perid…”

v. “Ponder’s office always puzzled Mustrum Ridcully. The man used filing cabinets for heavens’ sake. Ridcully worked on the basis that anything you couldn’t remember wasn’t important and had developed the floor-heap method of document storage to a fine art.”

vi. “‘Drumknott, if you saw a ball lying invitingly on the ground, would you kick it?’
The secretary’s forehead wrinkled. ‘How would the invitation be couched, sir?’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘Would it be, for example, a written note attached to the ball by person or persons unknown?”I was rather inclining to the idea that you might perhaps feel simply that the whole world was silently willing you to give said ball a hearty kick?’
‘No, sir. There are too many variables. Possibly an enemy or japester might have assumed that I would take some action of the kind and made the ball out of concrete or similar material, in the hope I might do myself a serious or humorous injury. So, I would check first.’
‘And then, if all was in order, you would kick the ball?’
‘To what purpose or profit, sir?’
‘Interesting question. I suppose for the joy of seeing it fly.’
Drumknott seemed to consider this for a while, and then shook his head. ‘I am sorry, sir, but you have lost me at this point.'”

vii. “Glenda reached down inside her west and pulled out a burgundy-coloured booklet with the seal of Ankh-Morpork on it.
‘What’s that?’ said Juliet.
‘Your bank book. Your money’s safe in the bank and you can take it out any time you want.’
Juliet turned the bank book over and over in her hands. ‘I don’t fink anyone in my family’s ever been in a bank except for Uncle Geoffrey and they caught up with ‘im even before he got home.'”

viii. “‘Anyway, pies are so yesterday,’ said Dibbler dismissively. ‘I am on the ground floor of football memorabilityness.’
‘What’s that, then?’
‘Like genuine autographed team jerseys and that sort of thing. I mean, look here.’ Dibbler produced from the large tray around his neck a smaller version of what one of the new gloing! gloing! footballs would be if it were about a half of the size and had been badly carved out of wood. ‘See those white patches? That’s so they can be signed by the team.’
‘You’re going to get them signed, are you?’
‘Well, no, I think people would like to get that done themselves. The personal touch, you know what I mean?’
‘So they’re actually just painted balls of wood and nothin’ else?’ said Trev.
‘But authentic!’ said Dibbler.”

ix. “‘There were no assasinations,’ said her ladyship. She turned her eyes upwards. ‘There was, however, a terrible mining accident and a rather unusual rock slide.'”

x. “Football owned the day. Nothing was happening that wasn’t about football. There were certainly no lectures. Of course, there never were, but at least today they weren’t being attended because of the excitement about the upcoming match rather than not being attended because no one wanted to go to them.”

January 19, 2013 - Posted by | books, Terry Pratchett


  1. Nice coincidence. I started Witches Abroad a few days ago. It’s my first Pratchett book. I haven’t read such good fiction in a while!

    Comment by Nia Nymue | January 20, 2013 | Reply

    • I’m happy to learn that you’ve ‘discovered’ Pratchett!

      In general my advice to people who’ve just read their first Pratchett novel would be: “If you didn’t like it you should read another one of his books, and if you did like it you definitely should read another one of his books…”

      I’ve written about a lot of his books here on the blog, so if you don’t know which of his books to have a go at next you can find some inspiration here by clicking on the Terry Pratchett category under the post (I’m assuming here, perhaps incorrectly, that you haven’t already done that…).

      Comment by US | January 20, 2013 | Reply

      • You assume well. I have clicked on that tag, just to see if there were previous posts I can refer to, but I have not read through them yet. I would, for recommendations.

        I’m reminded of a video I watched a while back, a documentary in which he discusses his (mental?) health problems and euthanasia. It fascinated me but seeing as to how you don’t have tags for ‘euthanasia’, ‘death’, and similarly morbid things, you may or may not be similarly interested in it:

        Comment by Nia Nymue | January 20, 2013

      • I have watched the video you link to before, and I’ve also blogged it here (the last link in this post was to a different youtube-version of that specific documentary, which now no longer seems to be available).

        If you haven’t watched this, I’d recommend it if you liked the documentary – I consider it to be a really quite wonderful lecture.

        Comment by US | January 20, 2013

  2. Thanks for sharing that. It IS a wonderfully written and delivered lecture. I’m also done with his book. My interest in it tapered off halfway through, but I’ll give his other books a shot, based on the posts you’ve written about him/ his books.

    Comment by Nia Nymue | January 31, 2013 | Reply

    • And thank you for letting me know. I’m happy to learn that you’ll give his other books a shot – and it’s wonderful to be told that my posts have been part of the reason. As I mentioned in the post I don’t think this is one of his best books, so if anything I’d probably have advised a first-time reader of Pratchett against starting out with this one.

      Comment by US | February 1, 2013 | Reply

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