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The Wind From Nowhere (1961)

Author: • Oct 10th, 2006 •

Category: bibliography, enviro-disaster, urban decay

Ballardian: The Wind from Nowhere

“The dust came first.”

From the Penguin edition, 1976:

The wind came from nowhere … a super-hurricane that blasted round the globe at hundreds of miles per hour burying whole communities beneath piles of rubble, destroying all organized life and driving those it did not kill to seek safety in tunnels and sewers – where they turned against each other in their desperate struggle to survive …”

The Wind From Nowhere (1961) is JG Ballard’s first novel, not that you’d know it from official JGB bibliographies, where it’s never mentioned, or in interviews, where Ballard continues to assert that The Drowned World was his first book.

The wind from nowhere has gone back to nowhere.

In a 1975 interview with David Pringle, Ballard says: “I don’t see my fiction as being disaster-oriented, certainly not most of my SF – apart from The Wind from Nowhere which is just a piece of hackwork. The others, which are reasonably serious, are not disaster stories.”

The book does contain some ’empty symbolism’, and the characters sometimes articulate overlong expositions, all a bit jarring from an author who was to bloom into the master of sparse, laser-sharp, all-killer-no-filler writing.

Still, it *is* Ballard; all the classic archetypes are in place, if a little sketchily (except for the ‘Vaughan’ figure) — the bitch-as-catalyst, especially — and it does have what must be the first truly classic JGB quote, one that ranks with the pearls collected in Vale’s RE/Search book, a quote that both presages future events and qualifies current ones.

A JGB ‘soundbite’ as Mr Pringle calls them… On p112 of my Penguin edition, Ballard writes: “Remember, it’s not enough to make history ­– you’ve got to arrange for someone to record it for you.”

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Ben Jeapes, one of the very few essays on the web regarding this ‘idiot offspring’ of JGB’s:

The seeds of what have since become traditional Ballard themes are all there, of course. Civilisation collapses, a handful of weirdos … no, not weirdos. These are real, everyday people. They either try and do something about keeping society going or they lie low and wait for it to go away — both sensible, believable actions.”

Here’s another review excerpt, from Strange Words:

That undefinable atmosphere that marks Ballard’s best work is here, around the edges, pushing away at our perceptions. While not partaking of the extreme ideas of The Crystal World, the obsession of The Day of Creation, or the fatal ennui of The Drowned World, there is that strange taste at the back of the mouth that is Ballard.

You don’t need a weatherman to know that a Ballard wind is blowing. In some ways, a lesser Ballard effort. But one can almost sense Ballard ringing out the old, making way for the strange and terrible world he would soon construct.”

..:: ELSEWHERE ON BALLARDIAN (selected posts)
+ The Wind from Nowhere is now a wind from somewhere
+ ‘Enigmatic Engineering’ in The Wind from Nowhere
+ ‘My name is Maitland, Donald Maitland…’


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7 Responses »

  1. This book appeared in the Guardian on a list of “most under-rated” novels. Choice was made by Toby Litt.

    Toby Litt

    The Wind From Nowhere (1961)

    JG Ballard

    Thousands of books are undervalued by the general public. Far rarer are those undervalued by their own authors. And rarer still are those the authors dislike so much that they suppress them. Graham Greene wouldn’t allow his first four novels to be reprinted. And Jeanette Winterson has done her best to turn her second novel, Boating for Beginners, into an unbook. Harder to understand is JG Ballard, who always refers to The Drowned World as his first novel, whereas it was, in fact, The Wind From Nowhere. His reluctance to admit authorship is almost certainly due to having knocked it out in a mere two weeks. But it’s not a bad book – recognisably Ballardian in subject and form. Also, it stands as the first part of Ballard’s Disaster Quartet. Each of these books – The Drowned World, The Drought (aka The Burning World) and The Crystal World are the others – is based on one of the four classical elements: air, water, fire and earth. By refusing to admit The Wind From Nowhere into his corpus, Ballard leaves this quartet maimed. But maybe that’s the whole point.

  2. Thanks, John … Toby’s choice was noted here:


  3. It seems I remember Mr. Ballard saying somewhere that he tossed this one off very quickly to “make a little money” (I’m paraphrasing that quote). It shows. Maybe that’s why he disregards it?

  4. […] (the story with that title also shared by the book) was J.G. Ballard’s first novel The Wind from Nowhere. In the book, the surface of the whole planet is rapidly destroyed by a powerful wind, which […]

  5. Is The Wind From Nowhere really from 1961? Most bibliographies give 1962, specifically January, which I suppose is listed on the copyright page; I don’t know whether the modern habit of the book being physically available several weeks before the official release date was practiced as early as that time. Any elucidation would be much appreciated.

  6. The novel, published by Berkley Books of New York, is dated “January 1962” on the copyright page. So, bibliographically, 1962 is the correct date to give for it. However, it was a mass-market paperback original; and in America, in those days, such books usually appeared on the newsstands and in the racks at the drugstores at the end of the month preceding the month they’re dated for. So it’s likely that _The Wind from Nowhere_ was first on sale in late December 1961.

  7. […] tindery deserts of The Drought – just as he loves the superhurricane, or express avalanche, of The Wind from Nowhere (1961) and the mineralised multiplicities of The Crystal World (1966). It is the measure of his […]

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