- The Man Who Japed
infobox Book |
name = The Man Who Japed
image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
Philip K. Dick
language = English
Science fiction novel
release_date = 1956
media_type = Print (
pages = 160 pp
isbn = NA
"The Man Who Japed" is a
science fictionnovel written by Philip K. Dick, first published in 1956. Although one of Dick's lesser-known novels, it features several of the ideas and themes that recur throughout his later works. The term "japed" is an archaic term that refers to parodyor satire, and is first used in reference to a statue's decapitation within this book.
"The Man Who Japed" is set in the year 2114. After a devastating twentieth century limited nuclear war, a South African ("Afrikaans Empire) military survivor named General Streiter launched a global
revolutionin 1985 that ushered in a totalitarian government. As one sign of the carnage, Allen Purcell visits Japan's northern island, Hokkaidō, which is still a desolate wasteland that has not recovered from nuclear bombardment in 1972, the last year of the global war referred to within this book.
This regime - Moral Reclamation ("Morec")- rules a post-apocalyptic world under its strict ideology. Streiter's descendant, Ida Pease Hoyt, is in charge of the regime. Morec has created a conservative and puritanical future society, that is strict, oppressive and judgemental of its fellow citizens. For example,
extra-marital sex, public drunkennessand neon signs are all under prohibition, although a thriving black marketexists, where one can purchase the Decameron, James Joyce's "Ulysses", chablis wine, and pulp fiction detective novelsfrom the twentieth century, albeit at vastly inflated prices.
However, humans have colonised several alien planetary systems. There are human colonies on Belletrix (
Gamma Orionis), Sirius8 and 9, and "Orionus." On these worlds, intensive labour is required to provide agricultural and industrial products for survival.
Themes & predictions
*Although originally written in 1957, Morec's ideology incorporates elements like bloc meeting "self-criticism" sections in which one's living partners subject their fellow inhabitants to scrutiny on the basis of ideological compliance (or
political correctness, as some might call it today.) In many ways, these scenes prefigure those that actually occurred during China's Cultural Revolutionin the 1960s, although similar practices had occurred there before the novel was written.
*There is a "Pure Food and Drug League" that seems to prefigure the
healthy foodmovement found amongst some environmentalistactivists today.
*There is no reference to
population controlissues. However, this may be inferred from the accommodation situation of the main character, Allen Purcell, and his wife, Janet. They live in a single-room apartment within the Morgentlock Building that changes its appearance according to the time of day. Hence, at seven in the morning his "bedroom" changes into a kitchen; at night it will change back to a bedroom. This suggests living space is at a premium, perhaps due to restrictions on birth controlwithin Morec.
Humour and subversion
"The Man Who Japed" is notable as being perhaps the first book in which Dick has used humour to great effect. This gives the book an irreverent tone in contrast to the dark themes prominent within the storyline. We learn, for instance, that the highly moral people of 2114 consider "damn" and "hell" to be bad swear words, and hereafter the writer censors them so that they become "d__m", and "h__l".
Humour is also a key theme in the book. Allen Purcell is found to have a sense of humour, thereby making him one of the rarest individuals in 2114's strict, humourless society. In discovering that he has such a gift, Purcell discovers that humour could help him in changing the face of society for the better.
At the conclusion of the book, Purcell engineers a public discussion on "active assimilation" that Morec fails to censor in time. "Active assimilation" is a reference to the early post-apocalyptic environment, where the loss of
cattle, wheatand dairyproducts created a situation where Major Streiter and his revolutionaries (allegedly?) condoned cannibalism. This is reminiscent of a similar suggestion from eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swiftrelated to the consumption of "surplus" Irish infants as food- (" A Modest Proposal", 1729).
"Morec" appears to be the
antithesisof the socially libertariandespotism of "Relativism" with Dick's contemporary novel, The World Jones Made(1956).
* [http://www.philipkdickfans.com/frank/japed1.htm Digressions on "The Man Who Japed"] , by Frank C. Bertrand.
* [http://www.philipkdick.com/works_novels_manwhojaped.html A Summary of "The Man Who Japed"] , at the official Philip K. Dick website.
* [http://pkdickbooks.com/SFnovels/Man_who_japed.html "The Man Who Japed" cover art gallery]
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