Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

For the nth. time: What if the Nazis had won the Second World War? Because Dick is known as a science fiction writer we could be led to hope time travel might undo that by way of deus ex machina magic. Writing that I am probably showing my ignorance of the S.F. genre - Man, don’t you know worm-holes only came in 1983 in the works of, sadly neglected works of, Herman von Gosseling?

The Man in the High Castle was published in 1962 and that appears to be about the internal time of the book. Good Nazi rocket technology has made the journey from Dortmund to San Francisco a mere 45 minutes for the elite rocket-set. T.V. has not kept up and is local and fragmented. Dick does not overindulge these ironies. The political set-up of the U.S. is in partes tres. There are the Western Pacific States (P.S.A.) under Japanese rule, the Rocky Mountain States, native run and backward and the Nazi Eastern hegemony. These are details. In a work like this, I don’t get bogged down. Blitz Read. Jawohl.

At the centre of this novel is another novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy written by Hawthorne Abendsen which reverses the actual world giving us an ‘if only’ counterfactual history of the war and its remote causes.
Roosevelt is not assassinated in Miami, he goes on and is re-elected in 1936...
At an obscure city in Russia called Stalingrad the German receive a setback.

The I Ching with its portentous gloom is the manual which guides the actions of some of the main characters. Well, you can only bring the counterfactual so far, there has to be a bridge to reality.

The ‘if only’ spreads its disaffection and shows that art is a dangerous thing for the tyrant. There are many witty elements in this book. The Japanese ruling class are fond of Pop Americana such as Mickey Mouse watches and rare comic books. In a satirical passage an elite ruling couple, Paul and Betty sense wabi in a pin made by jeweller Frank Frink. The serious implication of this is that the soul of the subject people is becoming strong again. Paul the aesthete collector:

I still see no shapes or forms. But it somehow partakes of Tao. You see?’ He motioned Childen over. ‘It is balanced. The forces within this piece are stabilised. At rest. So to speak, this object has made its peace with the universe. It has separated from it and hence has managed to come to homeostasis..........The hands of the artificer had wu, and allowed that to flow into this piece.

Paul then tries to subvert the growth of wu by suggesting to Childen that there was money to be made by reproducing this pin wholesale as a good luck charm.

I would say that the artificer of this book had wu. He doesn’t allow his work to be overwhelmed by gadgets unless we consider the book to be one of the earliest and most disruptive of them. Or was that fire? The Nazis tried to cancel the one with the other.

I asked the I Ching What does the man of Courage do?
34 - Thirty-Four

Ta Chuang / Awesome Power

Thunder fills the Heavens with its awful roar, not out of pride, but with integrity; if it did less, it would not be Thunder:
Because of his Great Power, the Superior Person takes pains not to overstep his position, so that he will not seem intimidating or threatening to the Established Order.

Opportunity will arise along this course.

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