No writer has been as astute an observer of the contemporary condition as JG Ballard. But through the experiences described in this moving memoir, his work also emerges as personal and universally humanby John Gray / March 28, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: an Autobiography, by JG Ballard
(4th Estate, £14.99)
Writing of a cycle ride he took with his father in Shanghai in 1941, JG Ballard describes stepping into the grounds of a derelict casino and nightclub called the De Monte: “On the floor ornate chandeliers cut down from the ceiling tilted among the debris of bottles and old newspapers. Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Nights tales. But it held a deeper meaning for me, the sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appear, it could be swept aside into the past.”
Central to all of Ballard’s writings is the disassembling of the theatre in which our lives are ordinarily enacted—a theatre that includes our habitual selves. When these props are taken away by history, or by some inner imperative of our own, we find ourselves in a world more real than the one constructed by society. With the makeshifts of conventional existence demolished, we face human life on its most basic terms—an extremely sobering, sometimes devastating, experience that can also be oddly liberating.