I Am Alive and You Are Dead A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick

Emmanuel Carrère; Translated by Timothy Bent




Trade Paperback

336 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

For his many devoted readers, Philip K. Dick was not only "one of the most valiant psychological explorers of the twentieth century" (The New York Times) but a source of divine revelation. Dick, whose work inspired such films as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and Paycheck, was a prolific and visionary if deeply troubled writer who dedicated his life to solving one unanswerable question: What is real?

In the riveting style that won accolades for The Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère follows Dick's strange odyssey from his traumatic beginnings in 1928, when his twin sister died in infancy, to his lonely end in 1982, beset by mystical visions of swirling pink light, three-eyed invaders, and messages from the Roman Empire. Drawing on interviews as well as unpublished sources, Carrère traces Dick's multiple marriages, paranoid fantasies, and vertiginous encounters with the drug culture of 1960s California. The author vividly conjures the spirit of this restless observer of American postwar malaise, whose more than fifty novels subverted the materials of science fiction—parallel universes, intricate time loops, collective delusions—to create classic works of contemporary anxiety.

As disturbing and engrossing as a work by Dick himself, Carrère's unconventional biography interweaves life and art to reveal in full the maddening genius whose writing foresaw an unsettling world—from cloning to reality television—that seems ever more familiar.


Praise for I Am Alive and You Are Dead

"A strange, fascinating man, and this a strange, fascinating book."—The San Diego Union Tribune

"Emmanuel Carrère's I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick is remarkable—a depth charge, a CAT scan, and an exorcism. Carrère, whose own eerie novels include The Adversary, proves that it's still possible for the French to write like Voltaire rather than Derrida. Informed, affectionate, sardonic, he is also crystal clear."—John Leonard, Harper's

"Consistently fascinating and brilliantly written . . . Carrère combines fact and fiction to form a new sort of genre, blending literary criticism and cultural history with a novelist's earnest speculation."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The story of a remarkable life marked by great burst of creativity and equally frequent bouts of mental turmoil . . . Carrère wisely eschews the 'and then he wrote' approach to literary biography . . . He neither overstates Dick's gifts nor belittles his more outlandish hypotheses about the underlying meaning of reality . . . He captures [Dick's] sense of humor, his intellectual curiosity, his very human vulnerability . . . Compelling."—Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle

"Startling . . . Carrère gets so far inside the head of the deeply troubled author [that] the resulting text is remarkably vivid, intimate, often haunting."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"What Dick thinks and feels as a man and writer is richly developed in this riveting biography. Mr. Carrère's book is mesmerizing. Seldom have I read a biographer who drew me so deeply into his subject's world."—Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun

"Every whorl of Dick's mind, every delusion, every leap through the looking glass, is chronicled. The effect is powerful."—James Parker, The Boston Globe

"[A] painful and unconventional biography [that] portrays Dick as a Cold War Don Quixote, flailing at the totalitarianism he suspected was taking over 1950s-60s America. Aimed at hardcore Dick fans, it's a powerful treatment of a difficult subject."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Emmanuel Carrère; Translated by Timothy Bent

  • Emmanuel Carrère is one of France's most critically acclaimed writers, author of several screenplays and novels, including Class Trip & The Mustache, as well as The Adversary, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Carrère lives in Paris.

  • Emmanuel Carrère Annie Samuelson