J.G. Ballard: The Personal Mythologist

Author’s note: Vale J.G. Ballard. This interview was originally published in REVelation magazine (Summer, 1994): 96-97. Archived links from Disinformation version (2000).

J.G. Ballard has a unique place in Twentieth Century literature. Imaginative fiction writer and cult figure, his life has often been as nightmarish as the stories he writes. Born on November 15th, 1930 in Shanghai, Ballard’s childhood changed from living in a house with nine servants to being interned by the Japanese following the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

His experiences of surviving acute food shortages and dysentry formed the basis for the 1984 novel that brought Ballard widespread recognition – Empire of the Sun, later filmed by Steven Spielberg.

“As far as I was concerned, Empire of the Sun was a breakthrough book, but there have been people who have been generous to my material from the beginning,” Ballard says, explaining the difference in his earlier styles.

“The real problem is that imaginative fiction unsettles a lot of people who prefer naturalistic novels that reflect everyday life. Imaginative fiction has never been too popular, but that’s changing.”

“When magic realism came from South America, people realised that it creates a wonderful, imaginative world, particularly as TV does the everyday stuff better than novels do. After Empire of the Sun, I was dealing with a whole new audience.”

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