April Reads: J.G. Ballard – The Drowned World

…to return to The Drowned World – or, indeed, to pick it up for the first time – is to be confronted with a vision of such startling and coruscating originality – images and ideas burning expanding aureoles into the mind’s eye – that it is quite impossible to credit that such acclamation was not accorded him earlier. Will Self

Originally published in 1962, I first read this as I did most books at the time, borrowed from Cwmbran public library. I would scour the shelves for the distinctive yellow jackets of the Gollancz SF collection. The library had all the Ballard novels and I devoured them along with John Brunner, Brian Aldiss et al.

Its a tale of post-apocalyptic London,regressing to a Triassic landscape of jungles and iguanas, caused by solar radiation melting the polar ice caps. However the main characters embrace the changes and regress mentally into a dream landscape mirroring what is happening around them.

Soon it would be too hot. Looking out from the hotel balcony shortly after eight o’clock, Kerans watched the sun rise behind the dense groves of giant gymnosperms crowding over the roofs of the abandoned department stores four hundred yards away on the east side of the lagoon. J.G. Ballard “The Drowned World”

The images of London department stores and hotels just rising above the swamps and lagoons with iguanas peering from windows are haunting and are the backdrop for the psychological collapse of the main characters. A BBC radio drama of the novel I found disappointing, which led me back to read the original, and any dramatisation would find it hard to match Ballard’s superb prose and interior character monologues.

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