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Narratives of Rebellion: Primary Sources

Guide to the Revolts of 1857 in Colonial India

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Getting up, he hurried into his study, returned at once with two cigarette lighters which he set down on the coffee table. "Look at these. Look the same, don't they? Well, listen. One has historicity in it." He grinned at her. "Pick them up. Go ahead. One's worth, oh, maybe forty or fifty thousand dollars on the collectors' market."

The girl gingerly picked up the two lighters and examined them.

"Don't you feel it?" he kidded her. "The historicity?"

She said, "What is 'historicity'?"

"When a thing has history in it. Listen. One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D. Roosevelt's pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn't. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing. Can you feel it?" He nudged her. "You can't. You can't tell which is which. There's no 'mystical plasmic presence,' no 'aura' around it."

"Gee," the girl said, awed. "Is that really true? That he had one of those on him that day?"

"Sure. And I know which it is. You see my point. It's all a big racket; they're playing it on themselves. I mean, a gun goes through a famous battle, like the Meuse-Argonne, and it's the same as if it hadn't, unless you know. It's in here." He tapped his head. "In the mind, not the gun. ..."

"I don't believe either of those two lighters belonged to Franklin Roosevelt," the girl said. 

     Wyndam-Matson giggled. "That's my point!" I'd have to prove it to you with some sort of document. A paper of authenticity. And so it's all a fake, a mass delusion. The paper proves its worth, not the object itself!"

     "Show me the paper."

"Sure." Hopping up, he made his way back into the study. From the wall he took the Smithsonian Institution's framed certificate; the paper and the lighter had cost him a fortune, but they were worth it--because they enabled him to prove that he was right, that the word "fake" meant nothing really, since the word "authentic" meant nothing really.

"A Colt .44 is a Colt .44," he called to the girl as he hurried back into the living room. "It has to do with bore and design, not when it was made. It has to do with--"

She held out her hand. He gave her the document.

"So it is genuine," she said finally.

"Yes. This one." He picked up the lighter with the long scratch across its side.

Pp. 64-65 from Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, New York: Berkley Medallion Book, 1962