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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: England Maurice's Avatar
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    ceefax:



    "Cult author J. G. Ballard dies at 78"



    The author, J.G. Ballard, famed for novels such as CRASH and EMPIRE OF THE SUN, has died aged 78 after a long illness.



    His agent Margaret Hanbury said the author had been ill "for several years" and had died on Sunday morning.



    Despite being referred to as a science fiction writer, Jim Ballard said his books were instead "picturing the psychology of the future".



    His most acclaimed novel was EMPIRE OF THE SUN, based on his childhood in a Japanese prison camp in China.

  2. #2
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    A true giant.



    RIP Mr Ballard.

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    name='Maurice']ceefax:



    "Cult author J. G. Ballard dies at 78"



    The author, J.G. Ballard, famed for novels such as CRASH and EMPIRE OF THE SUN, has died aged 78 after a long illness.



    His agent Margaret Hanbury said the author had been ill "for several years" and had died on Sunday morning.



    Despite being referred to as a science fiction writer, Jim Ballard said his books were instead "picturing the psychology of the future".



    His most acclaimed novel was EMPIRE OF THE SUN, based on his childhood in a Japanese prison camp in China.


    I've heard of him. Can you post an obit?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    I loved Low Flying Aircraft. I think Ballard was overlooked here as his writing didn't quite fit into the typical British SF. He was at Shepperton but his mind was elsewhere.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member moonfleet's Avatar
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    J.G Ballard



    For Crash{film} and La Foire aux Atrocit�s / The Atrocity Exhibition{book}

  7. #7
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    I met him briefly a couple of years ago - he was a charming man with a lovely dry wit and we're all the poorer for his passing.

  8. #8
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    Home with anthony sher is amazing ! i also liked crash

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
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    The other Britmovie connection is Ballard's association with Jason King.



    Peter Wyngarde gets some coverage in Ballard's autobiography Miracles of Life. Under his real name of Cyril Goldbert he was interned by the Japanese, along with Ballard, in Lunghau Camp, Shanghai. Ballard thought he was witty and sophisticated and a good friend in the camp. Cyril confided in Jim that his stage name would be "Lawrence Templeton".



    Jim bumped into Cyril again in St James Park when he was famous as Jason King but when Jim started to speak, Cyril cut him dead.



    IMDb gives Cyril's birthdate as 1933 but Ballard, born 1930, says he was 4 years older than him.

  10. #10
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    As fairly bookish kinda bloke i was sad to read of his passing in The Independant this morning,i liked Crash- i did go see the film version at my local multiple -by the end me and my pals where the only people in the auditorium which was harsh as the film wasnt THAt bad !!!.



    R.I.P big man

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    Rip jg

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    J.G. Ballard: Writer whose dystopian visions helped shape our view of the modern world



    The Independent

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009



    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jg-ballard-writer-whose-dystopian-visions-helped-shape-our-view-of-the-modern-world-1671634.html











    He gave an impression of dangerous worldliness, as though he understood too much: Ballard at home in Shepperton in 1988







    For 30 years J.G. Ballard had many readers in many lands. For them, everything he published was news. But after Steven Spielberg based a good though not incandescent film on his autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun (1984), Ballard became publicly newsworthy over large parts of the world that his words had never reached directly.



    He became a sage and prophet, whose visions of the cost of living in the modern world were an integral part of our understanding of the shape of things to come. At least one English dictionary has accepted "Ballardian" as a term descriptive of the landscape of the late 20th century: bleak, rusted out, choked with Ozymandian relics of the space age now past, dystopian � a landscape which surreally embodies the psychopathologies of modern humanity.



    That none of this was new in Ballard's understanding of the world, his readers already understood. With an unwavering intensity of gaze, he had been reworking and refining the same fixed array of intuitions and insights from as early as the publication of his first science-fiction story, Prima Belladonna, in 1956. That story, like much of his early work, did not find easy entry into the British literary world. Almost every tale he wrote for more than a decade first appeared in a small British science-fiction magazine called New Worlds, at a time when British SF was formally and culturally very conservative. Only 10 years later, under the mid-1960s editorship of Michael Moorcock, would New Worlds become the natural home of the kind of transgressive, experimental, intensely written "New Wave" fiction that Ballard had been producing for years.



    His instinct from the first had been to apply the inward visions of surrealism and psychiatry to the outer worlds of science fiction and, by 1960 or so, he was already beginning to describe the Space Age as a last, doomed, phallocratic attempt, on the part of the Hollow Men of the West, to gain immortality. Ballard may not have coined the term "inner space", which became a New Worlds catchphrase � J.B. Priestley, in They Came from Inner Space (New Statesman, 1953) was the first to use the term conspicuously � but he seemed to have taken to heart Priestley's description of the science-fiction invasion of outer space as a series of moves, "undertaken in secret despair, in the wrong direction". His genius was, devastatingly and unrelentingly, to take J.B. Priestley at his word.



    For Ballard, to gaze into inner space � the world within the skull � was to gaze upon the antic face of the world, upon a landscape governed by Thanatos and Eros, the two great world-shaping principles common to Freud and the Surrealists. His genius was in his ability to "actualise" these principles in his fiction, and to choose protagonists who might plausibly embody his convictions about our state. Ballard's lead characters are almost invariably middle-class professionals: affectless physicians, benumbed apparatchiks, deracinated engineers, the swelling mob of rootless death-fixated suburbanites who are (his recent novels claim) the real terrorists to come. Ballard's 21st century is a vision of gated communities occupied by potential suicides and real killers, glassy with disinterest but deadly: Thanatos Unbound.



    James Graham Ballard was born of English parents in Shanghai, 10 years before the outbreak of the Second World War. He was raised in a surreal suburb, transferred to downtown Shanghai as war began, and interned in the Lunghua concentration camp by the Japanese occupiers from 1943 to 1945. It is these experiences which are transmuted into Empire of the Sun and which, that novel makes pretty clear, were fundamental to his understanding that the world could only be survived if one knew its nature. In one of the many interviews he gave after Spielberg made him world famous, he said of this time that: "The reassuring stage set that everyday reality in the suburban west presents to us is torn down; you see the ragged scaffolding, and then you see the truth beyond that..."



    Ballard was a born exile. England, which would be his home for life, and where he was to set most of his fiction, came as a privileged refugee in 1946. Almost immediately he made the intoxicating discovery of Surrealism, paintings and writings which seemed to authenticate his own experiences (at one point he hoped to become a painter). From 1946 to 1949, he attended The Leys School in Cambridge, which reminded him of Lunghua Camp and, in 1949, he began to study psychiatric medicine at King's College, Cambridge. He left after two years without graduating, spending the next year at London University. In 1953 he joined the RAF, ending up in a base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan: flat country, torn by bad weather.



    By 1954 he was back in England, and married to Helen Matthews. Between 1957 and 1962, when he became a full-time writer, he was an assistant editor for a scientific journal, Chemistry and Industry. In 1960, the Ballard family moved into a semi-detached home in Shepperton, Surrey, a suburban enclave gradually to become surrounded by motorways and battered by the continual growth of Heathrow Airport. In 1964, during a family vacation in Spain, his wife died suddenly of pneumonia, and he raised their three children himself. He became very well off after the Spielberg film, but never moved. Perhaps there was no need to. If he had consciously wished to combine internal-exile status, along with intimate contact with a great megalopolis of the Western world whose heat death he was predicting, he could not have chosen a better coign of vantage than Shepperton.



    In 1962 he published the first of four science-fiction novels � The Wind From Nowhere, The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964; published in the UK as The Drought) and The Crystal World (1966) � which transfigure in turn each of the four classic humours (Air, Water, Fire, Earth) into science-fiction landscapes for the enacting of holocaust. The last three of these novels have become classics of the genre because of the mesmeric grip of their portrayals of terminal catastrophe, but also notorious for seeming almost supernaturally flattened of any normal emotion about the desecration of the planet. But the passion, and the shockingly deadpan hilarity, were there to be discovered; a powerful sense that to gaze unblinkingly at the world is an act of rage.



    This soon became clearer. Some of the stories written in the highly transgressive decade after 1965, particularly those assembled in The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), are full-frontal assaults on the psychopathological roots of the fall of the West. The book was pulped before release by its first American publisher, though it was released in Britain without problems, and filmed in 2000 by Jonathan Weiss. One reason for the pulping was certainly the inclusion of Ballard's most notorious single story, Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (1968), a perfect marriage of rage and hilarity. In 1970, he put together, for the Arts Lab in North London, an exhibition he called "Crashed Cars", based on a story called Crash! from Atrocity, and an obvious teaser for his next novel, Crash (1973), perhaps his most radical assertion of the intimate exchanges in our psyches between Thanatos and Eros. David Cronenberg's 1997 film, Crash, comes close to capturing the novel's dangerous, dream-like allure.



    By 1970, Jimmy Ballard had developed into a remarkably attractive figure. He was of medium stature, with swept-back receding hair, and a gaze that seemed both bland and impatient. He was bonhomous in a fashion that somehow suggested to his companions that he might not, in truth, be that easy to please. Without seeming to notice his effect on others, without ever claiming to do much other than work hard in Shepperton, he gave an impression of almost dangerous worldliness, as though he understood too much. Perhaps because he seemed physically denser than other people, they orbited him. He was charismatic. He gave audience. He loved in particular women � his second autobiographical novel, The Kindness of Women (1991), makes this abundantly and attractively clear � and for years after 1965, he was intensely involved with more than one partner. In the late 1960s, he met Claire Walsh, whom he refers to as his "partner for 40 years" in his last book, Miracles of Life (2008), a memoir composed, as he makes clear in its pages, during a remission from the prostate cancer that killed him.



    After works such as Concrete Island (1974) and High Rise (1975), each as intense in its way as Crash, his next few titles gave the impression that he was beginning to exhaust the central innovative fire of rage and insight that made his first six or seven novels, and his 120 or so stories, a central achievement of English writing in his time. Most of his great stories are early, assembled in volumes such as The Four-Dimensional Nightmare (1963) or Vermilion Sands (New York, 1971), which is set in a melting-watch Dying Earth; and inserted into later retrospects such as Memories of the Space Age (US, 1988), which gathers stories about the death of Space that date back as far as 1962 (no wonder so many American SF readers distrusted him), or The Complete Short Stories (2001), which, though seriously incomplete, runs to more than 1,100 pages. At the end of this long run of unremitting work, the retroactive orienteering of Empire of the Sun only intensified a sense that his career had climaxed, that all his cards were now on the table.



    It was remarkable, therefore, how long Ballard sustained a high level of creative endeavour in later decades. No one has seriously claimed that novels such as Cocaine Nights (1996), Super-Cannes (2000) or Kingdom Come (2006) achieve anything like the unstoppable horrific presence of the earlier masterpieces, but they convey an undiminished wisdom about the nature of our world.



    The most complete unfolding of his later sense of things can probably be found in a quite astonishing book-length interview published by the magazine Research as the self-standing Research No 8/9 (1984) but he remained unfailingly eloquent until the end of his life, as the interviews assembled in Conversations (2005) attest. "At times", he said in 2004, "I look around the executive housing estates of the Thames Valley and feel that [a vicious and genuinely mindless neo-fascism] is already here, quietly waiting its day, and largely unknown to itself ... What is so disturbing about the 9/11 hijackers is that they had not spent the previous years squatting in the dust on some Afghan hillside ... These were highly educated engineers and architects who had spent years sitting around in shopping malls in Hamburg and London, drinking coffee and listening to the muzak."



    He continued to live in Shepperton. In 1985, he had a copy made of a lost Paul Delvaux painting � in truth, not a very good one � and kept it propped against the same wall in his work-room for the rest of his life. He refused an OBE in 2003, as the whole rackety world of gong-bestowing seemed to him a "Ruritanian charade" designed to "prop up" the Royals. He continued to act with dignity and insight the role of a public man of letters, publishing reviews and comments frequently � A User's Guide to the Millennium: Essays and Reviews (1996) assembles some of this work. Miracles of Life is a memoir of piercing clarity; a projected posthumous volume, Conversations with My Physician, may continue Ballard's engagement with the facts of his mortality.

    His late novels never flinch from addressing the "elective psychopathy" that increasingly riddles the anaesthetised world we are now beginning to inhabit. It is a fate Ballard had been predicting for half a century. His fiction was perhaps too invariant for him to rank as the greatest literary figure of his generation but of all the writers of significance in the last decades of the 20th century, he was maybe the widest awake.





    John Clute



    James Graham Ballard, novelist and short story writer: born Shanghai 15 November 1930; married 1955 Helen Mary Matthews (died 1964, one son, two daughters); died London 19 April 2009.



    SEE ALSO:

    Jeremy Laurance: The brilliant medical career this novelist never had - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    JG Ballard

    JG Ballard, the author who died on April 19 aged 78, was best known for his two fictionalised autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women; the former, which told of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp outside Shanghai, became an international best-seller and was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg.



    Daily Telegraph

    20 Apr 2009

    JG Ballard - Telegraph





    Before the success of Empire of the Sun Ballard was known principally for darkly surreal novels such as The Crystal World (1966), which described a West African country undergoing an inexplicable process of petrifaction, and Crash (1973), in which he put forward the idea that modern society finds traffic accidents erotic. Despising the term science fiction, Ballard never used it, preferring to describe his work as �apocalyptic�.



    Despite his avuncular appearance and booming voice, Ballard�s air of bonhomie belied a much darker side. Acquaintances recalled that as a young man he was �obsessed� with topics such as assassination, car crash injuries and psychosis. One of Ballard�s more outr� projects had been an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Arts called The Assassination Weapon, featuring a story about a deranged bomber pilot simultaneously screened on three walls to the sound of cars crashing.



    Friends, while remembering Ballard as �generous and jovial� also described him as �jolly peculiar� and on occasion as �straightforwardly mad�.

    Ballard admitted to spending too much of his adult life drinking . �It was a great sense of achievement,� he recalled, �when my first drink of the day was not at nine in the morning but at noon and then at eight. Life got much duller as a result.� No doubt as an antidote to boredom, he began taking the mind-altering drug LSD and recalled �an indulgent over use� of silver spray-paint in decorating his footwear.



    James Graham Ballard was born on November 15 1930 in Shanghai, the elder child of a cotton mill owner and his wife. Ballard�s sister was not born until he was seven and he recalled that much of his childhood was spent alone or in the company of his nanny. �My father worked,� he remembered, �and my mother played bridge. Every time I went out of the house I was chauffeur-driven with my nanny next to me to stop me being kidnapped.�



    Ballard�s memories of pre-war Shanghai were of �a cruel city�. �If you fainted on the road from lack of food you lay there until you died,� he said. �There used to be carts going around the city picking up dead bodies.�

    A year after the Japanese seized Shanghai, Ballard and his family were interned in Lunghua Camp just outside the city. �It was absolutely the reverse of anything I had ever known,� he recalled. �Previously we had lived an incredibly formal existence, then suddenly I was a member of a 2,000-strong tenement family. I had a good time, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.�



    Ballard was, he admitted, aware to some extent of the �years of stress and illness� undergone by his parents. �Towards the end when the food supplies had collapsed we were living on warehouse scrapings,� he recalled. �One day my father said: 'We must eat the weevils, they contain protein�, and so we did.�



    Ballard and his fellow internees were isolated from all news of the war. They did not know hostilities had ended until the United States began dropping food parcels instead of bombs on the airbase next to their camp. His family went back to their house in Amherst Avenue in Shanghai and remained there until 1946, when they returned to England.



    After China Ballard recalled that he found life in Britain �cold, grey and dull�. He attended The Leys School, Cambridge, which, he insisted, he survived only because of his previous exposure to the rigours of an internment camp. �I�d seen so much by then,� he remembered, �I could put up even with public school.�

    On leaving in 1948 he went up to King�s College, Cambridge, where he studied Medicine for two years. He had originally hoped to go on to study psychiatry, but realised that the demands of the course were leaving him no time for writing. �I felt the pressure of imagination against the doors of my mind was so great,� he recalled, �that they were going to burst.�



    When Ballard left Cambridge without having taken a degree, he joined the RAF to become a pilot. After two years of training in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, he returned to Britain. He then worked variously as an encyclopedia salesman, a Covent Garden porter, and as a writer on a technical journal before publishing, in 1956, his first short story in Michael Moorcock�s magazine New Worlds.

    Later that year Ballard married and moved with his wife to Shepperton. He became a professional writer and his first novel, The Drowned World, was published in 1961. In it he put forward one of the first arguments that global warming could cause the flooding of the world�s major cities. His second book, The Terminal Beach, followed a year later.

    Ballard and his wife had three children before her sudden death from pneumonia in 1964. Afterwards he brought up his children alone, an experience he described as �the most important� of his life.

    While Ballard insisted that he had enjoyed raising his children single-handedly, and even regretted that he had not had �more children and more dogs�, the strain of doing so took its toll.

    �I used to have my first whisky at nine am, after I�d taken the children to school,� he remembered, �then I�d have a glass on the hour, every hour. I was never drunk, but I would have a glow all through the day.�

    Ballard spent the late 1960s editing Ambit magazine and socialising with fellow writers and artists such as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Having developed a fascination for car crashes he frequently surprised fellow dinner guests by producing photographs of his girlfriend�s crash injuries.

    If she was also present Ballard would persuade her to show her scars.

    Another long-term obsession, assassination, culminated in Ballard�s producing a screenplay, Atrocity Exhibition, which in 1969 became part of The Assassination Weapon.

    The film told the surreal story of an H-bomber pilot lost among a series of motorways and psychiatric wards and haunted by images of John F Kennedy, Malcolm X and Lee Harvey Oswald. The event lasted for 75 hours.



    In 1973 Ballard�s obsession with car accidents came to fruition with the publication of Crash. The book put forward the unusual theory that only through intimate contact with a car (in the form of accidents) can humans achieve true eroticism. Ballard�s accounts of �the mysterious eroticism of wounds: the perverse logic of blood-soaked instrument panels and sun visors lined with brain tissue� did not suit all tastes. The publisher�s reader who first saw the manuscript described Ballard as being �beyond psychiatric help�. Ballard took her comment as a compliment.



    Throughout the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s JG Ballard wrote approximately one book every 18 months. All his novels and short stories were marked by the same dark, surreal landscapes, and all described a future in which his characters had abandoned themselves to personal obsessions.

    Concrete Island (1974) dealt with a futuristic motorist marooned for days, not on a desert island but on a roundabout, by the ceaseless flow of traffic. Stories such as Low Flying Aircraft (1976), The Unlimited Dream Company (1979), Hello America (1981) and Myths of the Near Future shared an almost hallucinatory quality and featured Ballard�s most common theme, characters lost in unknown and abandoned landscapes.



    In 1984 Ballard wrote his first realistic novel, the fictionalised autobiography Empire of the Sun. The book told the story of his childhood in Shanghai and his internment in Lunghua camp and proved an international best-seller. The 1987 film version, made by Steven Spielberg, prompted further sales and Ballard estimated that he made half a million pounds from book sales alone.

    Ballard was offered an extra�s part in the film, and played John Bull in a scene featuring a fancy-dress party.



    Instead of producing further realistic works, Ballard returned to his �apocalyptic� vision of the future with The Day of Creation (1988). The novel told the story of a doctor, working in Africa, who opens a small spring which rapidly grows into a river. As the flood transforms the country around it the doctor feels compelled to find the source of the river and to try to dam the flow. �Obsessions again,� Ballard recalled. �I think people often feel like that, they create something and then become frightened of it, people become jealous of their own children.�

    Later that year Ballard returned to Shanghai for the BBC Two Bookmark programme. He visited his old house in Amherst Avenue, by then an electronics library, which had remained largely unchanged since the war. �My bedroom was still painted blue,� he recalled, �and the shelves where I had stacked my Chums annuals were full of reports.� Ballard also visited Lunghua camp, which had been transformed into a boarding school.

    �The Ballard family�s room was a broom cupboard� he recalled, �but I remembered every scratch, every chip of paint. It was Lunghua, not Amherst Avenue, which felt like home.�

    After producing two more books of short stories, Running Wild (1988) and War Fever (1990), Ballard wrote the second part of his fictionalised autobiography, The Kindness of Women, in 1991. Although the book sold well it did not enjoy the same success as Empire of the Sun. Spurred on by advanced prostate cancer, Ballard completed his non-fiction memoirs, Miracles of Life, in 2007. In them he observed that the attack on the World Trade Centre of September 11 was �a brave attempt to free America from the 20th century�. His own life, he declared, was the final story he would tell.



    JG Ballard remained in his peeling semi-detached house in Shepperton throughout his life, surrounded by the same furniture and fittings which had been there when he bought it. Asked why he never moved after the enormous financial success of Empire of the Sun, Ballard insisted that living in Shepperton was a �political statement�. �My upbringing was so middle-class and repressed,� he insisted. �It wasn�t until I was placed in Lunghua that I met anyone from any other social strata. When I did I found them colossally vital.�



    Ballard also claimed that he liked living near the motorway and Heathrow airport because he enjoyed their �perverse beauty�. �I only realised why I keep living in Shepperton when I returned to China,� he recalled. �All the people who moved there had come from places just like Shepperton and so they built and lived in houses exactly like these. I now know I was drawn here because, on an unconscious level, Shepperton reminds me of Shanghai.�

    In June last year he was forced to leave Shepperton as his health deteriorated. He moved in with his companion, Claire Walsh, in the Goldhawk Road, west London. Despite having been a couple for 40 years, it was the first time they had shared a home. �He needed his solitude for writing,� she explained in an interview.





    JG Ballard married, in 1954, Helen Matthews, who died in 1964. He never remarried. Claire Walsh and his three children survive him.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    From The Times

    April 20, 2009



    The Times Obituary: J. G. Ballard | Times Online Obituary



    The Times Obituary: J. G. Ballard



    Ballard's bestselling novel The Empire of the Sun was inspired by childhood years spent in a Japanese war camp



    The young J. G. Ballard, revealed in his most popular novel Empire of the Sun, was far more in awe of Japanese kamikaze pilots than he was interested in being liberated from his internment camp. Similarly the adult Ballard found the enslavement of man to his own devices � concrete, technology, cameras and crashing cars � monstrous and terrifying, yet fascinating and ceaselessly inspiring. There was very little that Ballard would dismiss out of hand as horrible or uninteresting. Drawn to the dark and the lurid, he once set up a a 75-hour �installation� project at the ICA, London called The Assassination Weapon (1969) which narrated in film the journey of a deranged H-bomb pilot accompanied by the sound of a car crash. His dispassionate visions of modernity and apocalyptic imagery earned him the rare honour of seeing his name adjectivised: Collins English Dictionary describes �Ballardian� as �resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard�s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak manmade landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments�.



    James Graham Ballard was born in Shanghai in 1930, within the Shanghai International Settlement. His father was a wealthy textile chemist, and the family house on Amherst Avenue, modelled on a Surrey manor, was full of servants. Ballard recalled that the staff brought him up �without ever looking at me�. Ballard rarely saw his parents, who were busy with the social whirl of expat life. With the Japanese invasion Ballard saw brutality visited on the locals, but his parents� first response to the Sino-Japanese War was to move house to avoid the shelling. After the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, the Japanese forces interned the foreigners in China, and the war was at last brought home.

    Ballard spent three years at Lunghua Civilian Assembly Centre. He maintained thereafter that he had �not happy, but not unpleasant memories of the camp�. Although forced to live at arm�s length from his parents in a tiny room, he was at the same time free of them, running lawless through the sprawling slums with the other children. He every day witnessed the pain and stress of adults without it ever thwarting his need to play. He reported that once, on a normal day of beatings, privations and petty thievery, �I ran off, and nagged the off-duty Japanese guards in their bungalows until they let me wear their kendo armour, laughing as they thumped me around the head with their wooden swords.�

    Ballard returned to London with his family in 1946. The dour austerity, he said, even after Lunghua, made him treasure his memories of Shanghai before the war. Intending to become a psychiatrist he went to King�s College, Cambridge, to study medicine while writing short stories. He disliked Cambridge, regarding it as an �academic theme park�, and when one of his stories was published in Varsity he switched to London University to study English Literature.



    Ballard worked on the trade magazine Chemistry and Industry for a while, but after moving with his wife and children to Shepperton, he could no longer deal with the commute. He determined to support himself as a writer after the publication of his first novel, The Wind From Nowhere. Three more disaster novels followed, The Drowned World, The Burning World and The Crystal World � the four works corresponding to wind, water, fire and earth. The Voices of Time and Other Stories (1962) was the first of 19 collections of short stories, for which Ballard�s clipped, dispassionate prose was ideally suited. These books were important to building his readership: Martin Amis contended that Ballard �seems to address a different � a disused � part of the reader�s brain�. Thus enjoying his work required an acclimatisation, for which short tales were ideal.



    Vermilion Sands, written to celebrate �the neglected virtues of the glossy, lurid and bizarre�, was Ballard�s favourite; perhaps the best loved by fans and the most imitated by others. It concerns a resort town of has-been actors, minor celebrities, their misfit servants and their use of technnological gadgetry to add tawdry, carnal interest to their lives � with amusingly damaging results.

    These short stories became the most fractured in The Atrocity Exhibition, a book with no narrative sense in which disjointed vignettes lie on the page like pieces of shrapnel. He later admitted that its deliberate, Ginsbergian shock value was a reaction, some years after the event, to the death of his wife. Because of its incendiary titles, chapters such as Love and Napalm were published, or photocopied, by students, agitators and pranksters and handed out at rallies. A bookshop owner who had sold the chapter Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan as a pamphlet was taken to court on obscenity charges, while in the US the publisher Doubleday destroyed the entire print run. Ballard explained to unhappy Americans that The Assassination of Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race was his attempt, once again some years after the event, to cope with the trauma.

    There was no excuse, though, for Crash, in which the protagonists seek gratification by having sex in crashed cars, amid the human and mechanical wreckage. Ballard was convinced that everyone found crashed cars sexy, and found nothing odd in delighting in �the mysterious eroticism of wounds; the perverse logic of blood-soaked instrument panels, seat-belts smeared with excrement, sun visors lined with brain tissue�. The publisher�s reader who read the manuscript wrote upon it: �This author is beyond psychiatric help�, something Ballard took as �proof of complete artistic success�. In case anyone was unconvinced, he organised a crashed car exhibition, with topless women in London. The book gained a much greater readership after the success of the David Cronenberg film in 1996.

    Although Ballard was frequently called a writer of science fiction, he abhored the term, explaining instead that his books �pictured the psychology of the future�.

    It was 40 years before Ballard felt able to write about the most formative events in his life. Empire of the Sun is unusual for a Ballard novel in that its young protagonist is instantly likable, his story moving. It was his most saleable novel, made into a Hollywood epic by Steven Spielberg with the young Christian Bale as Ballard. It was not, he insists, an autobiography but a �negotiated truth� from which he excised, among other things, the parents who had shared his ordeal. Similarly the follow-up, The Kindness of Women, deals with his wife�s death from pneumonia as a sudden hammer-blow to the head. Her death, while on holiday in Spain in 1964, devastated Ballard, who regarded it as �a terrible crime of nature�. He was no green thinker; he rather liked it that nature, with all its random savagery, had been made subservient to man. Thus his disasters in later novels were always of man�s creation: High Rise is a disaster of urban living; Concrete Island a disaster of town planning, Millennium People a crisis of urban sociology. Even the virus that ruins the landscape in The Crystal World was man-made. Although his wife died in 1964, Ballard later admitted that The Atrocity Exhibition was his first real attempt to deal with the pain. Nonetheless the late 1960s and 1970s, spent bringing up three children alone, was, he said, his happiest time.

    The Ballardian world dispenses entirely with heroism. He never required his readers to empathise with his characters or understand their actions. In Concrete Island, the protagonist crashes on a rubbish-strewn traffic island. The traffic will not stop for him and he is marooned there. He rises, like Prospero, to wrest control of the island from a Caliban who is a lame acrobat and an Ariel who is a depressed prostitute. It does not stop to consider what the point is; the protagonist�s psychological adaptation to his surroundings and innate need to conquer his environment � whatever it may be � eclipses both rationalism and philosophy.

    Ballard was a man of complications and contradictions. Readers of his fiction are never at ease; The Crystal World deliberately confuses the landscape with the human body just as Crash later melded man to machine. Yet the brutality and pessimism of his novels was not reflected in the easygoing cheer of the man himself, and although his writings informed the idea of cyberspace even before the appearance of the internet � which both appalled and fascinated him � he did not even own a typewriter and wrote all his books in longhand. While he worried aloud about the �suburbanisation of the planet� he remained, since 1961, in a terraced house in Shepperton, often saying that he had quite enjoyed watching the area grow more ugly with time.

    In later years he could always be relied upon to vent an opinion on events in the publishing world. He lamented the demise of the short story and defended the right of publishers to print �winner of the Booker Prize� on novels that had not even been shortlisted. He condemned the American practice of �partnership writing�, whereby a blockbuster author puts his or her name to someone else�s labour.

    With age he became more radical, but also more given to humour. In Millennium People the middle classes rise up against the state�s determined efforts to suck all the cash and human rights out of them. Molotov cocktails are constructed with vintage burgundy bottles and stoppered with regimental ties. It is at once a call to arms for his class and an admission of futility: while his rebels discuss changing their street names to those of Japanese film directors, they are put off by the likely drop in property value. Ballard, while convinced of the psychological violence wrought be a poor environment, lived happily among piles of junk and layers of dust, and his lifestyle did not change one iota after Spielberg gave him half a million pounds.

    He continued writing in his closing years, producing Kingdom Come in 2006, a novel that explored the theme of whether consumerism might become the new fascism. Last year Ballard published an autobiography, The Miracle of Life: From Shanghai to Shepperton. His wife predeceased him, but he is survived by his son and two daughters.



    J. G. Ballard, author, was born on November 15, 1930. He died of cancer on April 19, 2009, aged 78.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Images of J. G. Ballard from The Guardian:



    JG Ballard: Portraits of the artist | Books | guardian.co.uk





    Obituary: JG Ballard



    by David Pringle



    guardian.co.uk



    Sunday 19 April 2009





    JG Ballard, who has died aged 78, once described himself as "a man of complete and serene ordinariness" (to the disbelief of his interviewer). In fact, he was one of the most strikingly original English writers of the past half-century. Esteemed for his wayward imagination and his ability to create a distinctively Ballardian world, his fiction moved through various phases while remaining instantly recognisable.



    Although best known for his 1984 bestseller Empire of the Sun, his first fame, in the early 1960s, was as a science fiction writer, hailed by slightly older peers such as Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss. But within a decade or so his reputation had modulated into that of an avant garde provocateur, admired by visual artists and punk rockers. Another decade on and he reemerged as a great novelist of the second world war experience with Empire of the Sun, shortlisted for the Booker prize and winning his widest-ever public. Yet another decade on and he seemed to redefine himself as a special kind of crime writer – one with a peculiar, sinister vision of late 20th-century modernity that appealed particularly to the younger end of Britain's literary and arts scene.

    And yet the "serene ordinariness" that he claimed for himself was manifest in his personal life and modest circumstances: he lived in the same small, semi-detached house in Shepperton, Surrey, for nearly half a century; he rarely travelled in his later decades, and he very seldom participated in literary festivals or jamborees.

    Jimmy Ballard was the eldest child of James and Edna Ballard, who had emigrated in 1929 from Manchester to Shanghai, where he was born. His father rose to be managing director of a British-owned textile factory there, and the young Ballard grew up in the upper middle-class, quasi-colonial style of a large house in Amherst Avenue, tended by Chinese servants and Russian governesses. A younger sister, Margaret, was born in 1937, the same year that Japan invaded China. The family, like most European expatriates, were able to carry on a normal, prosperous existence, despite shells occasionally whizzing over their house in the International Settlement.

    This endured until December 1941 when, immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces entered the settlement. After a year of uncertainty, in early 1943 all "enemy civilians" were interned in camps which surrounded the city. The Ballards were confined to Lunghua civilian assembly centre where they remained until August 1945.

    The young Ballard grew from a naive 12-year-old to a perhaps prematurely wise 14-year-old during his time in the camp. He was never separated from his parents and sister, and the physical privations were not especially severe. Nevertheless, the contrast with their previous lifestyle was extreme, awakening in the boy a lifelong sensitivity to dislocations, sudden reversals, paradoxes, and ironies. A few months after the Japanese surrender, he was repatriated to England, a country he had never seen, together with his mother and sister (his father did not finally return to the west until after the Communist takeover of China in 1949).

    From early in 1946 he was a boarder at The Leys school, Cambridge, where, when he entered the sixth form, he concentrated on scientific subjects. While there, he won an essay prize but did not contribute to the school magazine. In 1949 he moved up the road to King's College, Cambridge, where he read medicine for two years but left without taking a degree. However, the experience of dissecting cadavers left its mark on his imagination.

    His reason for dropping out was the desire to become a writer. In May 1951 he was co-winner, with a piece called The Violent Noon, of a short story competition held by Varsity, the Cambridge student newspaper. (The other winner was DS Birley — later to become Sir Derek Birley, eminent educationalist and author of some classic cricket books.)

    Ballard's father suggested that if he wanted to be a writer, he should resume his higher education at the University of London, reading English. This he did, but again he dropped out, after just one year. As he strove to become a writer, submitting stories unsuccessfully to literary magazines, he earned a living by various short-term jobs: Covent Garden flower market porter, advertising copywriter, door-to-door encyclopedia salesman.

    Then, in 1954, he volunteered to join the RAF as a trainee pilot, despite being exempt from national service. It was a romantic impulse that sustained him for just one year, largely spent at a frozen airfield in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The experience of flying (aircraft had been an obsession since boyhood) fed his imagination, but perhaps the most significant aspect of his time in Canada was his discovery, in the servicemen's canteen, of American science fiction magazines. Back home in 1955, awaiting discharge from the RAF, he wrote his first sci-fi story, Passport to Eternity, in emulation of US writer Jack Vance. It was eventually published in 1962.

    Also in 1955 he married Mary Matthews, whom Ballard declared to be a great-niece of Cecil Rhodes. Their first child, a son, was born the following year, soon followed by two daughters. The family moved from digs in Notting Hill, west London, to a flat in Chiswick and then on to Shepperton, where they had settled by 1960. Ballard worked as a librarian and as a scriptwriter for a scientific film company.

    His newfound enthusiasm for science fiction – particularly of the American, Galaxy magazine school – fed into his writing, and soon he was selling short stories to British sci-fi magazines. The first to appear was Prima Belladonna in Science Fantasy (1956).

    At the same time, Ballard developed a strong interest in the visual arts, especially surrealism and the nascent pop art represented by the This is Tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, which he visited shortly after it opened in 1956. The editor of New Worlds, Ted Carnell, who was to become his literary agent for the first 10 years of his career, helped him obtain a new job, as assistant editor of The Baker, from which he soon moved on to the assistant editorship of a weekly science journal, Chemistry and Industry.

    For four or five years, Ballard was a short story writer, a period that climaxed in 1960 with the publication of his remarkable tale, The Voices of Time. Set amid desert landscapes, in a moodily-depicted near-future world situated in a larger, declining universe, it introduced its readers to what Amis was later to call "the inner reaches of Ballard-land". After more than 20 magazine short stories, his first four books arrived in a burst in 1962 – The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World, and the collections The Voices of Time and Billenium, all published as 50 cent paperbacks by Berkley Books of New York.

    The Drowned World appeared as a hardback in Britain early in 1963 to wide acclaim, along with the two follow-up collections issued by Gollancz, especially The Terminal Beach (1964). On the strength of this, and as the stories continued to spill out, Ballard became a full-time writer. Then tragedy struck. On a family holiday in Spain in September 1964, his wife contracted an infection and swiftly died of galloping pneumonia. As Aldiss was later to say: "It unhinged Jimmy for some while." He wrote nothing for about six months and drank too much. Nevertheless, resisting suggestions that he farm them out, he continued to care for his three children. "It was an extremely happy childhood," his daughter Fay said later. "Daddy sacrificed everything to bring us up. We had a lady who came in to change and wash the sheets every Friday, but apart from that he did everything, and he did it brilliantly. Our home was a nest, a lovely, warm family nest."

    Gradually emerging from that nest in 1965-66, Ballard joined in the swinging 60s. His novels The Drought and The Crystal World appeared (both largely written before his wife's death); he became prose editor of the poetry magazine Ambit; and his friendship with the new, young editor of New Worlds, Michael Moorcock, led to fashionable parties, occasional drugs and new women friends. He was encouraged to experiment in his writing, beginning a "non-linear" phase with his story You and Me and the Continuum. He became something of a guru to a circle of younger sci-fi writers, some of them visiting Americans such as Thomas M Disch and Pamela Zoline. One of Moorcock's editorials was entitled Ballard: The Voice.

    Stories appeared in Encounter, The Transatlantic Review and various small magazines. But no new novel would appear for seven years. His next significant book was The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), a collection of the nine so-called condensed novels plus half a dozen brief prose satires (the latter included his most infamous title, "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan").

    His next novel, Crash (1973), was written in a state of what he later described as "willed madness". Enlarging on a theme first broached in the preceding book – the psycho-sexual role of the motor car in all our lives – it was to be his most extreme work, a Jean Genet-like rhapsody on all the conceivable erotic overtones of the car crash. (It was written as a motorway extension was being built past the end of his street in Shepperton.)

    A fortnight after he delivered the manuscript, in February 1972, Ballard experienced his first car crash while coming home late one night from central London – "a case of life imitating art," as he said later. Fortunately, he was not badly hurt (and no one else was involved), but he was banned from driving for a year, during which he was inspired by this event and its aftermath to write another car crash novel, Concrete Island (1974). Crash itself received poor reviews in the British press but was acclaimed abroad and more than two decades later, it formed the basis of a provocative film directed by David Cronenberg.

    Life seemed to quieten down for Ballard from the mid-1970s. He saw his children through school and university. He did not remarry, although he had a long-lasting relationship with Claire Churchill Walsh, whom he had first met in the late 1960s. His novels, High-Rise (1975), The Unlimited Dream Company (1979), and Hello America (1981), were well received, as were the short stories he had resumed writing.

    But none of this prepared his readers for the surprise that was to come in 1984 when he published his largest novel to date, Empire of the Sun. It became a UK bestseller, gained him a new readership, and won the Guardian fiction prize. It failed to win the Booker prize, despite being the bookies' (and reviewers') favourite. A heavily fictionalised version of his childhood in Shanghai, it was hailed as a major war novel and it is likely to be the book upon which much of his reputation will rest. Ballard revisited North America for the first time since his RAF days to attend the Los Angeles premiere of the Steven Spielberg film of the novel in December 1987.

    A quasi-sequel followed, The Kindness of Women (1991) – more of a sequence of short stories than a novel, based on his life story from 1937 to 1987. Like Empire of the Sun, it represented a fantastication of his autobiography and was a powerful and moving book, gaining high praise from British critics. To promote its launch, and at the behest of the BBC, he undertook another of his rare travels, his first visit to Shanghai since childhood, where interviews with him were shot for a memorable BBC Four Bookmark programme in 2004 entitled Shanghai Jim.

    Other late novels included The Day of Creation (1987), a psychological fantasy set in an imaginary Africa; Rushing to Paradise (1994), a not entirely successful satire-cum-horror story set in the South Seas; Cocaine Nights (1996), the first of his crime and detection stories, set in the south of Spain; and Super-Cannes (2000), a crime novel set in a huge business park on the Riviera. The last was the best – sly, witty and extraordinarily inventive in its attack on eve-of-millennium complacency.

    His Complete Short Stories appeared as a 1,200-page volume in 2001 and must rank as one of his greatest books. Had he never written a novel, this would still make Ballard a major writer. But there were to be no more short stories after the mid-1990s, and his last two novels, Millennium People (2003) and Kingdom Come (2006), showed failing powers.

    His last book, the short but intensely moving memoir Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton (2008) – in which he revealed the news of his terminal illness to the world – was received with acclaim.



    James Graham Ballard, novelist, born November 15 1930, died 19 April 2009

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: England Maurice's Avatar
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    Thanks, Julian, much appreciated.



    Was the celebrated author never included in an honours list ?



    Perhaps more surprising is the apparent absence of any honorary degrees.



    As he left Cambridge without a degree, an honorary one might have given him satisfaction.



    Was there a serious oversight by the Honours Commission and universities - or did the author indicate that proposed awards would not be accepted ? Perhaps we will never know.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Country: England Maurice's Avatar
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    There was a fascinating article, by Bea Ballard, about her father in The Sunday Times (26.04.09) : MY DAD, THE PERFECT MUM.



    When his wife died in 1964, the writer was left alone with three small children: Jim 9, Fay 7, and Bea 5.



    "He cooked, ironed, played with George the rat and, oh yes, in between he wrote a bit too."

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    There was a fascinating article, by Bea Ballard, about her father in The Sunday Times (26.04.09) : MY DAD, THE PERFECT MUM.



    When his wife died in 1964, the writer was left alone with three small children: Jim 9, Fay 7, and Bea 5.



    "He cooked, ironed, played with George the rat and, oh yes, in between he wrote a bit too."





    SEE:



    My dad, the perfect mum - Times Online





    AND:

    My friend J.G. Ballard, the homely visionary, by Michael Moorcock - Times Online

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