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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 18:54 GMT
Ballard sees madness in 'sane society'
JG Ballard
Ballard: 'In sane society, madness is only freedom'
Author JG Ballard, whose latest novel is set in an enclosed business community, discusses his fascination with the "urge for destruction".

When British author JG Ballard first finished his infamous book Crash, his publisher stuck a telling note on it claiming, "this author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish."

This did not adversely affect Ballard's huge success as a writer.

Despite regularly being referred to as a science fiction writer, Ballard says what he is really doing is "picturing the psychology of the future."

Now the author of sinister novels such as Concrete Island and Cocaine Nights has once again examined the dark psychology of society.

David Cronenberg
Crash: Cronenberg's film caused widespread controversy
His latest novel, Super-Cannes, set in an enclosed business community, has been described as "the first essential novel of the 21st Century."

Surprisingly this futuristic tale owes much to the suburban surroundings that Ballard lives and works in.

"I've always felt that out in the suburbs one finds the real England - out here with takeaways and video rental culture people are better off as their imaginations can follow their money," he told to BBC World Service's Meridian Masterpiece programme.

The first essential novel of the 21st century?
This belief coupled with the author's concern that England's "obsession with the past is a sign of English failure," leads Ballard to predict that the culture of business parks and executive housing will be the future of the world.

"In my last two books I have an obsession with gated communities and I often think why?" he concedes.

"But, I feel I can trust my obsession, I've always relied on them and I think that they have never let me down, although some might disagree."


Speaking he warned that a "need for change" could soon disrupt the status quo of British society.

Ballard described his growing fascination with "the human capacity for self destruction - people become impatient with the existing order of things".

Adding that in an age of self-help books, "the urge for destruction as a way of redefining oneself is very strong".

He said: "My fear is that in a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom."

The author of 15 novels and scores of short stories, Ballard grew up amongst the ex-patriot community in Shanghai, eastern China.


During World War II, at the age of 12, he was interned for three years in a Japanese camp.

Since arriving in Britain, he has built up a passionate readership, particularly after Empire of The Sun, a fictionalised account of his childhood was made into a film by Steven Spielberg.

And director David Cronenberg brought Ballard's infamous book about the sexual desires stimulated by car crashes to the screen in the film Crash.

The film caused a media stir, adding to Ballard's reputation for courting controversy.

JG Ballard on BBC World Service
"The urge for destruction is very strong"
See also:

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05 Jun 01 | Arts
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