I read JG Ballard’s Concrete Island when I was 16. It was a sly and frightening novel that gave me nightmares. Read High Rise, same result– like anxiety dreams, the grim consumer artifices and sinister blandness of Ballard’s landscapes evoked a smothering sense of dissolution and creeping entropy.
Ballard disdained optimistic notions of futurism except as fetish, instead exploring familiar places made strange: Deserted airfields on a dying planet. The cracked plastic veneers of abandoned “smart homes”. Swimming pools filled with stagnant water, creeping vines. “The modern landscape as a collective dream, in which internal drives were transposed to the external world and ‘the ragged skyline of the city… resembled the disturbed encephalograph of an unresolved mental crisis’”.
Inside JG Ballard’s archive
Following the British Library’s recent acquisition of the JG Ballard archive, Tim Martin has been given exclusive access to the manuscripts. He traces the evolution of the daring and highly original author of CrashA scene from the film Crash (1997)Even diehard Ballardians may grunt and shuffle when asked what the word Ballardian actually means, though the staff at Collins had a good try with “dystopian modernity” and “bleak man-made landscapes” when they admitted it to their dictionary. Few, though, will deny that the most memorable things about these unforgettably odd novels are their environments.