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Borges y BallardAuthor: Simon Sellars • Jul 3rd, 2008 •
ABOVE: Jorge Luis Borges and J.G. Ballard,
somewhere in the 60s possibly in 1972 (many thanks to Lucho G. in Argentina for supplying this scan).
Borges writes what he calls ‘condensed novels’. He argues, with some truth, that since the essence of most novels can be told in a few minutes … it shouldn’t be necessary to give the whole book but only a description or review of it or essay about it.
James Colvin [pseudonym for Michael Moorcock], ‘Mainly Paperbacks’, New Worlds #160, 1966.
These condensed novels [in The Atrocity Exhibition] are like ordinary novels with the unimportant pieces left out. But it’s more than that — when you get the important pieces together … not separated by great masses of ‘he said, she said’ and opening and shutting of doors, ‘following morning’ and all this stuff — the great tide of forward conventional narration — it achieves critical mass as it were, it begins to ignite and you get more things being generated. You’re getting crossovers and linkages between unexpected and previously totally unrelated things, events, elements of the narration, ideas that in themselves begin to generate new matter.
Ballard, interviewed by James Goddard and David Pringle, ‘An Interview with J.G. Ballard’, J.G. Ballard: The First Twenty Years, 1975.
At my age nobody loves you for your prose style, just as nobody loves a beautiful woman for her kind nature. Obviously, I’m not the first writer to reach a larger part of the audience because of the movies. That’s happened many times before with many other writers. Serious writers, as opposed to popular writers, who have become well-known without movies being made from their books, are very rare. It’s only a writer like Borges whose fame is not dependent on any movie.
Ballard, interviewed by Richard Kadrey and David Pringle, Interzone #51, September 1991.
Short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction, easily ignored beside the wealth of novels available, an over-valued currency that often turns out to be counterfeit. At its best, in Borges, Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe, the short story is coined from precious metal, a glint of gold that will glow for ever in the deep purse of your imagination.
Ballard, introduction to the Complete Short Stories, 2001.
I certainly began as a short-story writer — the best way of learning one’s craft as a writer and something denied to so many young novelists today, when the short story seems, sadly, to be heading for extinction… Sadly, I think most people have lost the knack of reading them, perhaps under the baleful influence of TV serials and their baggy, unending narratives. The greatest short stories, by Borges, Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury, are nuggets of pure gold that never lose their lustre.
Ballard, interviewed by Sebastian Shakespeare, ‘Pure imagination, the most potent hallucinogen of all’, The Literary Review, 2001.
MH: You’ve already mentioned Burroughs. Which other authors did you most admire at that point, and how do you believe they influenced what yourself and Ballard were writing?
MM: Burroughs, like Borges, showed us what it was possible to do. Neither Borges nor Burroughs were available to us until about 1960 or so. I first heard Borges’s stories related to me by a Spanish-speaking Swede while hitch-hiking from Uppsala to Paris. It was a while before City Lights, I think it was, brought out the first translations. Burroughs wasn’t a disappointment, when we finally met him, but Borges was. Burroughs pretty much lived as he wrote, while Borges was a rather conservative man with a keen interest in G. K. Chesterton.
Michael Moorcock, interviewed by Mike Holliday about Ballard and New Worlds, ‘Angry Old Men: Michael Moorcock on J.G. Ballard’, Ballardian, 2007.
In Crash, there is neither fiction nor reality — a kind of hyperreality has abolished both… After Borges, but in a totally different register, Crash is the first great novel of the universe of simulation, the world that we will be dealing with from now on: a non-symbolic universe but one which, by a kind of reversal of its mass-mediated substance (neon, concrete, cars, mechanical eroticism), seems truly saturated with an intense initiatory power.
Jean Baudrillard on Ballard’s Crash, ‘Two Essays: 1. Simulacra and Science Fiction. 2. Ballard’s Crash’, SFS, 1991.
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