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21 May 2010

Words in Pictures: J G Ballard

The prophetic author on changes in British society.

By Mike Sweeney

Among the many references in this week’s Critic At Large piece — Chris Petit on the rise of surveillance in Britain — is one to J G Ballard’s prophetic novella Running Wild (1988). In it, the novelist foresaw the growing obsession with security, attributing it to a latent social malaise that was both spawning and spawned by an increasingly feral populace.

As the likes of Will Self have noted, it is striking how sensitive Ballard was to changes in the popular British psyche. Here he is in a 1986 interview with the director Solveig Nordlund, discussing the rise of a sensationalist press.

And here, eight years later, is Ballard on what was driving change in the Nineties. Not politics, he says, but the consumer economy.

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John Gray’s tribute to the author (written after his death in April last year) can be read here.