An interesting mystery emerged recently as I was researching Dick's use of multi-foci plots: In two separete interviews eight years apart Dick uses almost the exact same wording to describe where he got the inspiration for The Man in the High Castle's multi-foci plot.
First, Dick talks about multi-foci plots with Paul Williams in 1974, in interviews for the Rolling Stone article printed in Williams' Only Apparently Real.
Williams sets up the interview: "This theme of the relationship between an author and the worlds he creates was also touched on in a conversation a day earlier Oct 30, 1974. We had been talking of Phil's interest in the multicharactered realistic novels produced by students in the French department of Tokyo University after WWII....
D: What fascinated me was the economy of it, same structure [as the French realistic novels], but sparse. That's what I used in The Man in the High Castle.
Williams: Where you start off with one character, and then, in the next chapter introduce a new character and set them in motion towards one another, that sort of thing?
D: Right. And if you'll draw a diagram, you'll find that Childen is the first character, knows Tagomi, and ultimately they're all linked, but you can't say that any character knows all the other characters. I once diagrammed it.
W: And you never brought them all together in one room?
D: No, 'cause I thought that was dumb. That was like towards the end of this Japanese novel's structure, the grotesque scenes required to bring them all together, it became most of the work was spent figuring out how to get 'em all together.
What this all seems to me to, looking back on why I was drawn into it, why I didn't think much of the conventional novel structure,English/American, was that, well, first of all, the idea of a single protagonist. I never could understand that too well. But that's been forced on me, finally, that you have a viewpoint character who must subsume all the others, really, um, I guess [his voice gets squeaky], usually you gotta do that, but the thing that I've felt, Paul, is that problems are multipersonal, they involve us all, there's no such thing as a private problem"
This is such an important quote, as it explains where Dick got the inspiration for multi-foci plots, but, more importantly, it explains why Dick used the model and what he wanted to accomplish with it.
But Paul Williams never asks Dick to name either these students, or the novel where they used a multi-foci plot.
Then, almost eight years later, in 1981, Dick tells Gregg Rickman, in an interview printed in Philip K Dick: In His Own Words:
Rickman asks Dick about MITHC and Dick credits editor Pete Israel demanding significant revisions of Dick's draft. Then Dick says, "The structure of that novel [MITHC] is based on a structure used by students in the French department of Tokyo University after WWII [These are almost exactly the same words as Dick used to describe the structure to Williams]. That's an Oriental structure based on a French model. That's not a mainstream structure. That's a structure I worked out based on many diverse sources.
Notice, he's just made two different claims in almost adjoining sentences. So is it a structure he 'worked out' or did he borrow the whole thing from a novel? And how on Earth would Dick know about students' work at Tokyo University?
Also, Rickman doesn't bother to ask the name of the book or author.
So, Italian Dick-Head Scholar Umberto Rossi did a little Wikipedia research and discovered two writers who fit the bill:
"At the age of 18 he began to study French literature at the University of Tokyo, where he wrote his dissertation on the work of Jean-Paul Sartre. He began publishing stories in 1957 while still a student, strongly influenced by contemporary writing in France and the United States."
Oe was 18 in 1953.
"He graduated from Kyoto Imperial University School of Literature. Raised to study literature from early childhood, he mastered French while in high school. (...) After graduation, Ōoka became a journalist (...) but quit after one year to devote himself to the study and translate the works of the French writer, Stendhal, and other European writers into Japanese. (...) He was also a lecturer on French literature at Meiji University in Tokyo."
Ooka was born in 1909.
There are two problems with these guys: 1) It doesn't look like Oe's work was translated and published in English prior to Dick writing The Man in the High Castle [though Umberto and I are still looking to confirm this] and 2) Umberto has read Ooka's novel Fires on the Plain, of which he says, "It's a wonderful war novel, translated into English in the late Fifties, but it's terribly single plot."
So who the heck is PKD talking about and where did find this model for his multi-foci plots? Anyone out there have a clue about this? I've got a couple sources I can ask, but I love that this mystery is so utterly Dickian. More later.