The minds of Billy Milligan as a documentary novel by Daniel Keyes
A portrait of a tortured young man, arrested for a series of kidnappings and rapes, explores the world of a multiple personality, whose traumatic childhood shattered his mind into twenty-four distinct personalities. Reissue
Although writing documentary novel is almost a new way in non-fiction style, there have been enough writers who tried to make one. And Daniel Keyes with his “The minds of Billy Milligan” brought this style up to another level. Written in 1981, the book was accepted warmly in the USA and other foreign countries and is available in up to 15 languages now. However, it is barely known for Uzbek readers, though they can not stay indifferent once they start reading it. The book won Germany’s Kurd Lasswitz Award for “Best Book by a foreign author and was nominated for the “Edgar Award” by the Mystery Writers of Americ
The author of the Hugo award-winning short novel “Flowers of Algernon”, an American writer Daniel Keyes reveals the world of a man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder earlier called multi- personality disorder. It is a true story of a man who was abused both physically and sexually by his step-father in his early childhood and the trauma led his mind to be broken into 24 pieces; each piece is a whole person, each piece is a man or woman, adult or child with a distinguishable character, appearance, way of speaking, each with different beliefs and preferences. Each of them is another memory but only together they can make a whole story of one life – the life of Billy Milligan.
When Billy Milligan opens his eyes in prison for another time he realizes that one of his “alters” have committed something dire. He starts telling he’s sorry whatever he has done and that still he can not remember a thing. It turns out that he kidnapped three women and raped them and was arrested for this series of crime. In panic and fear David opens the secret which none of “them” were supposed to do. “They” are the family who live in one body; “they” are 24 personalities of one person; “they” are the “alters” who grab the opportunity to take the “spot” and hold the “consciousness” whenever it is possible; each of “them” tries to rule one body as long as one can handle. After the arrest, Billy Milligan is diagnosed with the multi-personality disorder, a rare disorder in which a person’s mind creates more than one personality within itself. By the time the court takes place, a group of psychologists identifies ten of “them” – Billy, the core person, is kept asleep, because whenever he opens his eyes, he finds himself in trouble, can’t know why and always tries to commit a suicide in order to escape from all of these. Arthur, the one who controls consciousness in safe places, he speaks in upper British accent, fluent in Arabic, self-taught in physics and chemistry and studies medical books. Ragen , a Yugoslavian atheist with strong Slavic accent, possesses an enormous strength, controls the “spot” in prison or in danger general. A 18 years old manipulator Allen, a 16 years old escape artist Tommy, David , an 8 years old “keeper of pain” and others including Adalana, a 19 years old shy and introverted lesbian. It was she who “used” the body and raped those three women earlier, stealing time from Ragen. The court pledges him insane and sends to Athens Health Center, to Dr. Caul who tries to “fuse” him into a one person again. During this process Dr. Caul manages to take out the other 13 alters called “the undesirables” for being mean in one or another way and “the Teacher”. “The undesirables” were kept out of “spot” by Arthur and Regen as they caused problems for family. For example , among them were Philipp, a 20 years old thug, a 19 year old girl April, who always tries to kill Billy’s step-father and etc. And there’s the “teacher”, the sum up of all these alters. Dr. Caul tries to fuse all of “them” in him. With the help of him Caul puts all the stories together and somehow manages “the fusion”.
The author of the book, Daniel Keyes, was a friend of Dr. Caul who invited him to Athens to interview Billy and write a book about. The author easily bounded with the teacher, Arthur, Ragen and other “alters”, listened to everyone’s story, interviewed Billy’s mother, sisters and other friends, collected data and so on, and this is how this novel was written. The language of the book is simple and plain, the author rarely uses “fancy” words and seldom “dramatizes” the scenes. Rather he illustrates real life scenes.
The story itself is not set up in chronologic order. The first chapter, “the mix-up time” starts from 1977, when Billy is 22 and arrested for series of major crimes and continues till the “Fusion” of Billy. The second chapter, “Becoming the Teacher” deals with the life of Milligan from the very beginning till the arrest and all the stories are remembered by the Teacher. The last chapter is called “Beyond the madness” and shows the struggle in Billy’s mind and the rest.
Even though the author tries to be a neutral, he is still far subjective concerning the rapes committed by Adalana “using” Billy’s body and robbery, done by Ragen, though it was done for the sake of the family. Billy didn’t get punished what he or his “alters” have done and in any case, insane or not, in my opinion, people should not get away with this. And yet, the conclusion is left for readers own perspective….
To sum up, we can say that reading this novel, leads to discover a new world of psychology, the author lays facts and evidences in such an order that the reader literary “sees” the “flow of events”. And there’s no need asking for proofs. While many people in the US tried to get William Stanley Milligan found guilty on court, after the publication of this very novel the way more people started to feel sympathy towards Billy and to be on his side relying on a fact that he is a victim of his disorder rather than a “Campus rapist”. And every reader has a right to make his/her own conclusion….
Blogger translator: Niginakhon Uralova