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Born and raised in the Shanghai International Settlement, a foreign-controlled part of Japan where residents lived an “American way of life”, J.G Ballard’s Empire Of The Sun was written as a way of documenting the author’s childhood memories of the outbreak of World War 2.
Interned with his parents by Japanese forces after the attack on Pearl Harbour, Ballard was profoundly marked by his wartime experiences, but it would take some 40 years before he could find the words to adequately do them justice on the page.
“How do you convey the casual surrealism of war?” he would go on to muse in an article written for The Guardian back in 2006.
“The deep silence of abandoned villages and paddy fields, the strange normality of a dead Japanese soldier lying by the road like an unwanted piece of luggage?”
The novel was eventually published in 1984, with Ballard drawing from his experiences and placing them within a fictionalised framework that necessitated the removal of his parents from the story.
“My mind was expanding to fill the possibilities of the war,” he explains, “something I needed to do on my own. Once I separated Jim from his parents the novel unrolled itself at my feet like a bullet-ridden carpet.”