Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 15:38 UK

Extract: Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun book cover
The novel won the 1984 James Tait Black Memorial Prize

JG Ballard's classic novel, Empire Of the Sun, is based on his own childhood.

It follows the story of a young boy, Jim, as he is interned in a Japanese camp during World War II.

In this extract he sees the aftermath of an unsuccessful American air raid on the camp.

The two parachutes fell towards the burial mounds. Already a squad of Japanese soldiers in a truck with a steaming radiator sped along the perimeter road, on their way to kill the pilots. Jim wiped the dust from his Latin primer and waited for the rifle shots.

The halo of light which had emerged from the burning Mustang still lay over the creeks and paddies. For a few minutes the sun had drawn nearer to the earth, as if to scorch the death from the fields.

Jim grieved for these American pilots, who died in a tangle of their harnesses, within sight of a Japanese corporal with a Mauser and a single English boy hidden on the balcony of this ruined building. Yet their end reminded Jim of his own, about which he had thought in a clandestine way ever since his arrival at Lunghua.

He welcomed the air raids, the noise of the Mustangs as they swept over the camp, the smell of oil and cordite, the deaths of the pilots, and even the likelihood of his own death. Despite everything he knew he was worth nothing. He twisted his Latin primer, trembling with a secret hunger that the war would so eagerly satisfy.


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