"We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind – mass-merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the pre-empting of any original response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel."
- JG Ballard, Crash (Introduction to French edition, 1974)
The veneer of uniform ordinariness that comprised the concrete-glazed suburbs of author JG Ballard's home was arguably one of his greatest sources of literary inspiration. Part of Ballard's brilliance could be attributed to his uncanny ability to peer beneath the facade of the everyday to reveal the fascinating (and often, terrifying) mess within. Through expanses of glass and concrete, Ballard muses the shiny vacuousness of identikit shopping centres, the bloodless expanses of arterial roads, and the vague, bleary amorphousness of those in-between places that are neither urban nor rural; the edgelands.
Whether writing about Shanghai, modern Britain, the suburbs, shopping centres, modern architecture, or cars, Ballard immersed readers into a world of 'dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments'. So distinctive is his writing, that the term 'Ballardian' has been coined to define the aformentioned conditions, which typify the thrust of his work.
JG Ballard was an English author who is possibly best known for his contribution to New Wave science fiction. Several of his novels have been made into films, including Crash, which was adapted by David Cronenberg, and the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun, which was made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg.
In this talk political philosopher John Gray joins author Will Self to discuss Ballard's work, his cities and his legacy.
John Gray is a British political philosopher and author who has written several influential books on philosophy and politics, including False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia. John regularly contributes to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New Statesmen.
Will Self is an award-winning British novelist and journalist, who has made regular appearances on Newsnight, Questiontime, and Have I Got News For You. His works of fiction include The Book of Dave, The Butt, and Walking To Hollywood, and he has written a number of non-fiction books, including Psychogeography, and Psycho Too.
A Festival of Ideas event in partnership with Watershed.
Posted on Fri 2 Dec 2011.