Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Generous Spirit Behind Visions of a Bleak Future

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Generous Spirit Behind Visions of a Bleak Future

Article excerpt


JG BALLARD'S literary career followed an unusual pattern, beginning in abstraction and ending up in autobiography.

He began writing dystopian science fiction in the mid- Fifties with such wonderful novels as The Drowned World, The Burning World and The Crystal World, as well as many short stories, all dreaming of universal cataclysm, dispassionately presented, the characters simply accepting the deranged worlds in which they finds themselves.

Many of these stories feel weirdly prescient now, as we face global warming and overpopulation. In Billennium, for example, published in 1961, overcrowding is such that the government allows a maximum living space per person of four square metres and the streets are so full that pedestrians become gridlocked for hours.

After the death of his wife in 1964, Ballard's harsh imagination took an even darker turn, perversely linking sexuality and violent death, in the stories of The Atrocity Exhibition (1970). At least nobody could accuse Ballard of not following his imaginative bent, wherever it took him.

In the prodigiously offensive short story, "Why I want to fuck Ronald Reagan", a supposed scientist offers clinical reports on subjects' violent fantasies in relation to Reagan, involving "Cadillac rear exhaust vents" and "Vietnamese child-atrocity victims".

Ballard upped the ante with his notorious 1973 novel Crash, presenting death and mutilation on the road as orgasmic, "millions of vehicles hurled together in a terminal congress of spurting loins and engine coolant".

Although Ballard later changed his style, he never abjured his "deviant thesis", saying proudly "if The Atrocity Exhibition was a firework display in a charnel house, Crash was a thousand-bomber raid on reality".

At the time, Ballard's readers could have had little idea of the source of Ballard's peculiar imagination. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.