Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography

Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography

J. G. Ballard

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0871404206

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A final statement from the greatest clairvoyant of twentieth-century literature.

Never before published in America, this revelatory autobiography―hailed as “fascinating [and] amazingly lucid” (Guardian)―charts the remarkable story of James Graham Ballard, a man described by Martin Amis as “the most original English writer of the last century.” Beginning with his Shanghai childhood, Miracles of Life guides us from the deprivations of Lunghua Camp during World War II, which provide the back story for his best-selling Empire of the Sun, to his arrival in war-torn England and his emergence as “the ideal chronicler of our disturbed modernity” (Observer). With prose of characteristic precision, Ballard movingly recalls his first attempts at science fiction, the 1970 American pulping of The Atrocity Exhibition―which sprang from his fascination with JFK conspiracy theories―and his life as a single father after the premature death of his wife. “This book should make yet more converts to a cause that Ballard’s devotees have been pleading for years” (Independent). 12 illustrations

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Shakespeare roles he would soon be playing, ‘his’ Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth, aware that none of us in Lunghua had any role at all. Then, in the last days of August, I was on the roof of F Block when a B-29 flew towards the camp at a height of about 800 feet. Its bomb doors were open, and for a few seconds I assumed that we were about to be attacked. A line of canisters fell from the bomb bays, parachutes flared and the first American relief supplies floated towards us. A stampede followed, as

Hiroshima. Freud was still something of an academic joke; the admissions tutor at King’s assumed that I was being ironic when I mentioned my admiration of Freud. The surrealists were still decades away from achieving any kind of critical respectability, and even serious newspapers treated them as a rather tired joke. Needless to say, this rejection only recommended Freud and the surrealists to me. I felt strongly, and still do, that psychoanalysis and surrealism were a key to the truth about

was a queue of others waiting in my mind. I enjoyed flying, but months in an isolated training base in Scotland or the north of England would postpone everything I planned. Accordingly, I resigned my commission, and was soon installed in my tiny couchette on the Canadian Pacific Railway train to Toronto, a long journey of endless lakes and pine forests that I spent with pad and pencil. In a real sense I wrote my way across Canada, and then across the Atlantic to England. On arrival I was sent to

withdrew into the vast interior of China. The new national capital became Chungking, 900 miles to the west. There was desperate fighting in the open countryside only a mile from our home. At one point artillery shells from the rival Chinese and Japanese batteries were passing over our roof, and my parents closed the house and moved with the servants to the comparative safety of a rented house in the French Concession. Curiously, the house we moved to had a drained swimming pool in its garden.

was contacted by a Hammer producer, Aida Young, who was a great admirer of The Drowned World. She was keen that I write the screenplay for their next production, a sequel to One Million Years BC. Curious to see how the British film world worked, I turned up at the Wardour Street offices of Hammer, to be greeted in the foyer by a huge Tyrannosaurus rex about to deflower a blonde-haired actress in a leopard-skin bikini. The credits screamed ‘Curse of the Dinosaurs!’ Had the film already been made?

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