Giant of Literature J.G. Ballard Passes Away at the Age of 78

(The cover art for The Collected Stories of J.G. Ballard)

J.G. Ballard (November 15, 1930 to April 19, 2009) rewired the brains of generations of readers and writers. A member of the largely British New Wave movement of the 1960s, Ballard wrote mind-bending stories that changed reader perceptions of space and time, along with novels that dealt with every conceivable major theme of the twentieth century. His fictionalized memoir of his childhood, Empire of the Sun (1984), was made into a movie that brought him more readers than ever before. Ballard’s devastating satires of American politics, in particular his notorious jab at Ronald Reagan, went right to the edge of fictional possibility. But controversy and pushing boundaries were never problems for Ballard, as books like Crash, with its examination of literal auto-eroticism, proved. Such books also proved the lasting value of both literature and experimentation, being irreproducible in other media.

Another giant of post-World War II literature, Michael Moorcock, told Amazon, “Ballard and I, together with the late Barry Bayley, 'plotted' what became the New Wave revolution in the late 50s and early 60s. A regular and frequent contributor to New Worlds, he was a hugely inspiring and generous friend, if a little reclusive. Raised his three children single-handed after his wife died suddenly in Spain while on holiday and wrote a moving, exceptionally warm memoir, Miracles of Life, which was published in 2007, when he knew he was dying. His influence on a generation of writers in all fields, including Martin Amis and Will Self, was enormous and he remains perhaps the finest imaginative writer of his generation. He refused a CBE from the Queen in protest at the United Kingdom’s involvement in Iraq, and because he thought the title of Commander of the British Empire a ludicrous title for a modern Briton. He leaves a partner, Claire Walsh, who was his companion for over forty years and nursed him through his long illness.”

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Comments (7)

Very thorough, thoughtful and well written. I saw this piece on the Kindle's Amazon blog (which does not list bylines) and thought to myself that this had to be written by Jeff.

Hearing sad news and being able to channel it into something as thoughtful as this piece is a special gift.

Posted by: kevin parsons | Sunday April 19, 2009 at 5:38 PM

Sad day. Ballard was a prophet as much a writer. We live in his world.

Posted by: Simon Pitchforth | Sunday April 19, 2009 at 9:10 PM

I read Ballard from my teens to the present day and will continue to do so. An author whose work I hugely enjoy as a reader, and whose writing skills were second to none.
One of the greatest writers in the English language of the modern era.
Bye, Jim.

Posted by: David Gullen | Monday April 20, 2009 at 2:51 AM

Just heard the news. I´m very, very sad. We just lost one of our greatest writers.

Posted by: Fabio Fernandes | Monday April 20, 2009 at 1:14 PM

To quote from above, this is exactly the effect Ballard had on me:
"I always felt, reading his work, that I didn’t process a Ballardian piece of fiction; instead, it processed me. I saw the world differently after reading Ballard."

Posted by: Pierce Watters | Monday April 20, 2009 at 2:12 PM

A great loss to the world of literature. An online tribute where fans can leave memories of Mr Ballard has been created at

Posted by: Alex | Tuesday April 21, 2009 at 7:11 AM

Re: In response to Amazon's remote deletion of 1984 and Animal Farm

Hi there,

Saw you'd written about the Amazon / 1984 flap, and I thought you might be
interested in the petition we launched yesterday:

We have over 1400 signatures already, and signers include Lawrence Lessig,
Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow and other notable authors, librarians, and

The petition opens:

"We believe in a way of life based on the free exchange of ideas, in which
books have and will continue to play a central role. Devices like Amazon's
are trying to determine how people will interact with books, but Amazon's
use of DRM to control and monitor users and their books constitutes a clear
threat to the free exchange of ideas."

Please have a look, and if you support the cause or think it would be
interesting to your readers, a blog post would be great!


-Holmes Wilson
Free Software Foundation

Posted by: Holmes Wilson | Wednesday August 5, 2009 at 7:43 PM

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