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The Crystal World (1966)

Author: • Oct 8th, 2006 •

Category: bibliography, deep time, inner space

Ballardian: The Crystal World

“Above all, the darkness of the river was what impressed Dr. Sanders as he looked out for the first time across the open mouth of the Matarre estuary.”

Ballard’s fourth novel. My 1993 Flamingo version has quotes on the back:

Through a ‘leaking’ of time and a supersaturation of matter, a forest area in West Africa is gradually becoming crystallised: leaves flash like gemstones, crocodiles with a second armour thrash in the stiffening streams, men who don’t keep moving are frosted over, encrusted, and fused to the ground … Brilliantly imagined, dark, brooding, convincing and powerful.”
New Statesman.

A haunting vision of diseased beauty … Ballard sustains it with extraordinary density. The purpose of the action is to show the characters gradually succumbing to the environment; and such if the force of the imagery – a blind python with enormous jewelled eyes, a prty of lepers dancing into the virtrified forest – that one can share their view of it as an ancestral paradise.”Observer.

Strange Words again:

The Crystal World is a very challenging book. Clearly, the Ballardian obsession with time is a central issue, as is the perverse love for disease found in some of his tales. This strange Heart of Darkness is set in a landscape without time, where it is possible for Sanders to “free the questions of motive and identity that were bound up with his sense of time and the past”. Indeed, the woman he has come to save is a former lover, now ravaged with leprosy. In a colonial end-of-the-road town, next to a river like a snake, etc., Ballard contrasts time with a strange and beautiful anti-time.

This is a book to be read many times. The madness in Ballard’s visions is disturbing, but puts the light to a darker side of sanity in his meditations on time and existence. His is a search for, if not the silver lining in the cloud of Apocalypse, at least the light of knowledge, and a view of the end as a doorway to New Things and Times. Things happen, then come to a hinge of crisis, a paroxysm of madness, and the world, destroyed in fire, rises again. And again.”

..:: ELSEWHERE ON BALLARDIAN (selected posts)
+ Ann Lislegaard: ‘Crystal World (after J.G. Ballard)’
+ ‘All about stars and time…’
+ Jean Seberg, part 2
+ ‘Der Visionär des Phantastischen’: An Interview with J.G. Ballard


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4 Responses »

  1. This is probably my favorite book. This has some of the most gorgeous prose I have ever read and is a truly uplifting book. It’s one of the few, if not the only one of his novels that I might actually want to inhabit. Was this written before or after his wife’s death? Probably before but it almost seems like a love letter to his recently deceased wife. I can see why he stopped writing this kind of fiction for awhile. Where else could he go with it?

  2. […] the rest of Mr. Gibson’s list The Forever War and Holy Fire are also faovurites of mine and The Crystal World has been on my “to-read” list for a long time. The rest are unknown and intriguing […]

  3. […] or express avalanche, of The Wind from Nowhere (1961) and the mineralised multiplicities of The Crystal World (1966). It is the measure of his creative radicalism that he welcomes these desperate dystopias with […]

  4. […] Well, Jimmy and I were both great fans of William Burroughs. We weren’t so much influenced by him as inspired by him. We were also interested in condensing narrative, of finding forms which would enable us to carry as many narratives as possible in as short a space. We were, I suppose, anti-modern rather than post-modern. Our ideas didn’t come out of academia. They were answers to the problems of working writers trying to find the best ways of dealing with our particular experience. Burroughs pointed the way, as we saw it. We talked about creating a new magazine which would run our more experimental work. When Jimmy did ‘The Terminal Beach’, Barry Bayley and I talked Carnell into running it in New Worlds. When I did ‘The Deep Fix’, Jimmy talked Carnell into running that. So we had a pretty good idea what we wanted to do. When I took over New Worlds our aspirations were reflected in those enthusiasms and the kind of work we’d started to do. I told Roberts and Vintner, the new publisher, what I wanted to do. They told me what I could do. So it was a slower process than we’d hoped. Also, we assumed there were dozens of writers out there champing at the bit, just waiting to submit the kind of stories we’d talked about. Sadly, it seemed at first there were only the three of us! It took a while to get the material we wanted. It even took time to formalise what we actually wanted to do. From the beginning Jimmy was my ‘star writer’ and complained I pushed him too hard — to write our first serial, for instance, which was Equinox, which became The Crystal World. […]

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