Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cover of the Day

A very cool former student of mine kindly took a photo of this Italian cover of 'The Man in the High Castle' and sent it to me. 'La Svastica Sul Sole' roughly translates to 'The Swastica on the Sun,' a pretty good title all things considered. I tried looking up funny translations of American movie titles but I think these are all fake. I just can't believe that 'As Good As it Gets' was billed as 'Mr Cat Poop' in China, or that 'Three Men and a Baby' was retitled 'Marx, Lenin, & Mao Change a Diaper' (although that is an compelling mental image).

But seriously, 'The Man in the High Castle' is generally thought of as the novel that catapulted Dick into the world of 'serious' literature. To say that, however, is to ignore the amazing narrative structure in Eye in the Sky, the pastoral splendor and Freudian underpinnings of Time Out of Joint, and all of the early short stories, so I try to take a more nuanced view of his career, noting that there was some brilliant stuff written before it and some filler written after. But it is a damn good book, and I think it will serve as a good introduction to Dick's ideas for erudite snobs reading him for the first time in the Library of America release.

What's more, I think the dialectic Dick sets up between the two realities in that book - the one in which the axis powers won WWII and our world where 'good' triumphed over 'evil' - serves as a blueprint for all of his later speculation on what is real. His false realities are heartless illusions, devoid of empathy, often perpetuated for personal gain (as in The Penultimate Truth).

Later in life PKD was blown away by the relevance of the scene in TMITHC in which Mr Tagomi is fascinated by a piece of jewelry and after staring at it believes he has entered a different reality. During an interview when Paul Williams told Dick that scene really wigged him out, Dick suddenly saw the connection to his own 2-3-74 experience when he was transfixed by the delivery girl's Jesus necklace:

Dick: "Suffering succotash! Pardon me, I got off on what you were saying. I just... this whole experience of mine since March -- of integration, and discovery of another world and all of that? - came about as a result of that girl coming to my door wearing a piece of handmade, extremely, marvelously modern jewelry with that fish symbol [...] I never thought about it but [...] how else - what - what a - what - what does this mean? This must mean something."
(Only Apparently Real 138)

Thanks Jane!


Unknown said...

I recently read for the second time, 'Man in the High Castle' which was my first introduction to Dick (snigger). I read the book over 30 years ago and didn't like it and never finished another PKD work after that until just a year ago when I began reading his entire Canon. That scene with Mr. Tagomi briefly stepping in to an alternate reality really blew me away and planted the seed of Dick in my subconcious where it waited until I was enlightened enough to accept him. That concept that what we perceive is an illusion really shook me up when I was first exposed to it. My second reading of the book really impressed me with its nuanced look at an occupied culture, the redemptive value of art, and the genius of PKD to express very complicated themes with an economy of language that is like Zen. I also noticed that after Mr. Tagomi returns to the reality he is more comfortable with he pays a boy to go check for pedicabs in downtown a bit like Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol' after he awakes from his night of ghostly visits and alternate futures promises the boy some money to go check on the Christmas Turkey in the butchers shop. From Dickensian to Phildickian.

SOY13 said...

Great blog. I already save it as one my favorites. I´ll come by later. Regards

umberto rossi said...

La svastica sul sole is the first title The Man in the High Castle had in Italy. When the novel was first translated a sf novelist like Phil had a rather low literary status and was not considered worthy of an accurate rendering of his titles (they also cut several sentences from the novel to keep it short...). Then, about 7 years ago, the publisher who currently own the rights of all Dick wrote, Fanucci, republished the novel as L'uomo nell'alto castello, which is a quite literal translation of the English title. But then, 2-3 years later, they published it again under the previous title (La svastica...). So the novel is currently in print under two different titles. It should be added that the translation is now quite good and all the previously edited out sentences are there.

You might like to know that Martian Time-Slip here is known as Noi marziani, and Clans of the Alphane Moon is Follia per sette clan. Nobody's perfect. (However, I do not think a literal translation of "Martian Time-Slip" will ever sound good in our language.)

Anonymous said...

umberto's comment reminds me of 'the game' in Galactic Pot-Healer.

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