Alternate Histories in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Keith Roberts’ Pavane

Yılmaz S.

Third International BAKEA Symposium: “History”, Gaziantep, Türkiye, 9 - 11 Ekim 2013

  • Basıldığı Şehir: Gaziantep
  • Basıldığı Ülke: Türkiye


Alternate history as a literary genre deals with what could have happened, instead of what is known to have happened. As Andy Duncan defines it; alternate history is “a work of fiction in which history as we know it is changed for dramatic and often ironic effect.” (Duncan 209) Alternate histories create a ground for speculating on the literariness of history as well as presenting several possibilities against one single truth. Writers of alternate history take on the job of historians while writing their works and cause the distinction between history and fiction to become blurred. Since history and past are not the same notions and what happened in the past can never be known as it had happened; history becomes a fluid matter which is open to manipulation. Thus, alternate history writers take this manipulation to a higher level and re-write commonly accepted realities. They present the question “what if..?” and while answering their question they carefully construct new realities equally credible as the history that we know. For instance, in The Man in the High Castle (1962), Philip K. Dick presents a North America which is shared by two dominant forces; the Japanese and the Germans who won World War II. The West of America is occupied by the Japanese while the Germans hold the Eastern part. Similarly, in his novel Pavane (1968), Keith Roberts speculates on what could have happened if the Catholics assassinated Queen Elizabeth and Vatican was still the dominant force in 1960s. This paper analyzes these two novels as examples of alternate history and examines their relationship with the actual history which also uses literary devices in its construction.