I have just finished reading VALIS, and I remain puzzled by something. It seems to be made clear that Horselover Fat is, in essence, an alter ego of Philip K. Dick - a separate personality of someone experiencing multiple personality problems, or just a literary device to cover talking to himself. Anyhow, Horse clearly does not have an existence of his own.

So how is he able towards the end of the book to

travel the world? Have I missed something? I realise that PKD's interpretation of reality is very flexible, but I cannot understand how he can be in two places at once, communicating with himself like that.


3 Answers 3


At a very early part in the novel Philip K. Dick states clearly that:

I am Horselover Fat, and I am writing this in the third person to gain much-needed objectivity.

Then later in the novel Philip K. Dick is brought to his senses by his meeting with the second coming of Valis, who he believes temporarily heals his mental problems.

So as to the question as to whether Horselover is a literary device or a person suffering from Multiple personality disorder, I would say the answer is probably both.

One of the interesting things about Valis and some of Dick's later writings was that it was hard to tell where his literary reality ended and our reality began. Valis and his related novels are a culmination of a life-time of combining high sci-fi with surrealism.

The character of Horselover Fat allowed Dick to explore himself and his own thoughts on his recent "religious" experience. As well as to blur the lines between science fiction, religion, and autobiography.

From Wikipedia's Valis article:

At one point, Dick claimed to be in a state of enthousiasmos with VALIS, where he was informed his infant son was in danger of perishing from an unnamed malady. Routine checkups on the child had shown no trouble or illness; however, Dick insisted that thorough tests be run to ensure his son's health. The doctor eventually complied, despite the fact that there were no apparent symptoms. During the examination doctors discovered an inguinal hernia, which would have killed the child if an operation was not quickly performed. His son survived thanks to the operation, which Dick attributed to the "intervention" of VALIS.

I think Horselover Fat represents the side of Philip K. Dick that believes wholeheartedly in his religious experience. While the character of Dick represents himself trying to decide if his experience is real or not.

Philip K. Dick, the author, is apparently losing it a little from his religious experience and the novel tracks his progress from sanity to insanity and back again. Because he is a great writer, he is able to take us on his personal journey to madness, and that's where Horselover Fat comes in.

  • 1
    I love this answer
    – DampeS8N
    Dec 23, 2011 at 16:34

The entire answer is a spoiler.

Presumably Dick at this point in the book has stepped so far off the deep end that he's lost the connection he once had to the reality of he and Fat's sameness. He has fabricated an arrangement where the missing Fat is off traveling the world.

Possibly, he is himself traveling the world in his stead. He isn't in two places at once. He is either Dick or Fat at any given moment, and his delusion fills in the other character's life somewhat like a dream. Dick, the narrator, is the one who is insane, and so he isn't able to articulate for you that his delusion has progressed. To him, they have become separate people and he can't tell that they are really the same anymore.

  • I think this is probably the right route - that PKD/HLF did spend some time travelling, and some time at home, and he separated the events into two personalities. Of course, the fact he was undoubtedly mentally ill may have helped this... Dec 24, 2011 at 12:18

All of the beliefs of Horselover Fat are typical of a person with schizophrenia. There can be an entire world of self-sustaining delusions in such persons. It can be difficult to determine if the delusions support a hallucination, such as the pink light, or the hallucination is justified by the delusions.

I have read PKD biographies that suggest that he was schizophrenic, but the level of organization needed to write VALIS is far beyond that of a schizophrenic. Perhaps if he was ever psychotic, it was episodic, or just under the clinical level meaning some other mental illness was present.

Writing about these experiences in the third person would be tremendously therapeutic, but could also have been a means of testing reality for PKD. In the end, it seems like he decided that this was truth, given that his Exegesis, recently published and mentioned in VALIS, was a physical document, not just a literary device.

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