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High-Rise (1975)Author: Simon Sellars • Sep 17th, 2006 •
“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”
From the opening scene of Laing tucking into his canine dinner — the spoils of urban warfare — to the final ascent of the high-rise, this is a brilliantly original work that has affected anarchists, surrealists and psychologists alike.
The quotes on the back of my 1993 Flamingo edition tell the story:
J.G. Ballard wants to argue that high-rise flats incite maniacal aggression and perversion in ordinary people. High-Rise is about a 40-storey apartment block, and how from innocent beginnings it reduces people to murder, incest and above all a passionate love for chaos … a gripping read, particularly if you like your thrills chilly, bloody and with claims to social relevance.”
“Harsh and ingenious … High-Rise is an intense and vivid bestiary, which lingers unsettlingly in the mind.”
Martin Amis, New Statesman
A modern fable — a commentary on the hideous possibilities of advanced technology and the rat-like nature of trapped human beings. The writing s cool, the observation exact, the idea bold and well-developed; everything seems to demand attention and analysis”.
Rick McGrath has onlined an in-depth dissection of the novel:
A night patrol creeps along a dark hallway past a barricade of desks; a flash of white birds leap into the air like a fluttering flag of surrender; a dog lies drowned in the middle of a community pool… welcome to High-Rise, J.G. Ballard’s deeply subversive study of a society in transformation.
J.G. Ballard has often told interviewers that his characters all seek a kind of highly personal psychic salvation, and that they will, if necessary, create their own self-defining mythologies and pursue them to their furthest logical ends, no matter how illogical it seems, or what the cost. In High-Rise, Ballard has created an isolated environment for the close study of the deconstruction of an ultra-modern apartment block into a new, devolved society based on the premise that you are what your cave is. Readers looking for obsessive, outlandish social mayhem will not be disappointed: High-Rise has 40 stories of shock corridor ahead.
The premise is fascinating: just after the last property in a 1,000-suite high-rise is occupied, the first little signs of social change begin to become public. A party is in progress. A wine bottle crashes and smashes all over a resident’s balcony. Soon crazed, drunken, mob-mentality parties are breaking out all over the building, and now we’re deeply into the action, led in shocked wonder as Ballard brilliantly describes the metamorphosis of group psychopathological desire into a new kind of urban social model.”
Rick McGrath. ‘Deconstructing High-Rise’.
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