A PKD Masterpiece: VALIS

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In March 1974, Philip K. Dick (PKD) was suffering from pain at home after a difficult dental surgery. He asked his wife Beth to phone the pharmacy, and he impatiently waited for the medicine that the pharmacist will send home. Finally, the door is knocked, and PKD opened the door. He saw a black-haired young girl with a bag of medicine in his hand. Although he was in terrible pain, his focus was on a fish-shaped necklace around the girl's neck, not the bag of medicine in her hand. PKD asked the girl what the fish on her necklace means, and she replied that it is the symbol of the first Christians.

From the golden necklace, as if a pink ray were spreading and reaching his mind. After a month or so, when he listened to the radio in his room, he saw colors floating in the air, and then these colors became clear and came towards him. PKD would attempt to reveal the true nature of this communication through 9000-page notes in the following period, which he called Exegesis. In addition to Exegesis, these mysterious experiences had been the VALIS trilogy subject, which consists of the novels Valis, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

VALIS was written by PKD in 1978 and first published in 1981. Although it may be hard to believe, it is the 46th novel PKD wrote, and it can be seen from the first lines that it is the work of a master writer. In PKD novels, events are usually transmitted instantaneously, and narration is carried out in the third person. In the VALIS novel, PKD preferred a dynamic narrative format that did not adhere to scenes, enriched with memories, impressions, and comments. On the other hand, he diversified his perspective through first-person narratives that he added to the novel. This preference can be seen as the attunement of the novel's content, which alternates between rationality and mysticism, rather than simply seeking innovation. Phil (the author), who performs the third-person narrative, approaches events from an objective and rational perspective. At the same time, Horselover Fat, the novel's main character, defends the reality of the transcendent experience he experiences within the framework of the first-person narrative. This separation is reminiscent of Hegel's concept of unity and struggle of opposites, as Horselover Fat is actually no other than the author himself.

Kevin, a close friend of Horselover Fat, is the novel's cynical character who does not believe in supernatural phenomena. His cat was crushed to death as it crossed the street in front of his house, and he interprets this as a sign that God does not exist. Another friend of Horselover Fat, Sherri, is a believer who regularly goes to church, so he does not deny the reality of Horselover Fat's experience. However, his faith will not prevent him from dying of cancer later in the novel. In the novel, The Fish necklace around the girl's neck has assumed the door's function to the mystical world. Our hero steps into the afterlife and goes on a great spiritual adventure, coming into contact with the supernatural.

During his writing career, Philip K. Dick shared Plato's doubts about the visible world's reality. He also took a great interest in metaphysical questions such as ‘is there time?’ ‘is movement possible in the universe?’ posed by pre-Socrates ancient Greek philosophers. From the biography his wife, Anne R. Dick's wrote, we learn that he studied different denominations of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, and even fulfilled the practices of the religion that was on his agenda at the time. Again, from this biography, we learn that he believes in the existence of another evil force, as well as God. In this context, we can say that there is a great philosophical and theological background behind Valis's crazy-sounding fiction.

Were the mystical experiences that PKD discussed in the novel VALIS linked to reality? Or was it the result of schizophrenic tendencies that have become dominant over the years under the influence of the amphetamine he was using? On the one hand, PKD, which dealt with its mental problems, and practiced its art with endless energy, was not in a perfect state by 1974. He was broke, and despite his superhuman efforts, he could not get himself accepted as a mainstream literalist. Even in science fiction, his name was not mentioned among the three greats.’ It was perhaps a psychological necessity to be the ‘Chosen One’ for the PKD. VALIS is a very artistic PKD novel in which the text flows softly with its own rhythm and tempo.

As a result, with its unorthodox subject matter, strong narrative, and skillfully drawn characters, VALIS is a novel that every reader interested in good literature can love.

References:
VALIS / Alfa Publications-Turkey 2020
The Search For Philip K. Dick / Anne R. Dick
Only Apparently Real – The World Of Philip K. Dick / Paul Williams
At The Dawn Of Destruction – Philip K. Dick Excavations / Rafet Arslan
Philip K. Dick: The Penultimate Truth / Documentary Video 2007
Philip K. Dick Bibliography – Wikipedia

Image Source: pixabay.com

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