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Borges y Ballard

Author: • Jul 3rd, 2008 •

Category: Ballardosphere, Borges, Michael Moorcock, New Worlds, short stories

Ballardian: Borges y Ballard

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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15 Responses »

  1. That’s a fascinating tease, Simon. When did these two actually meet?

  2. I’m not sure of exact dates. But that photo, I believe, is probably late-60s judging by Ballard’s appearance and also by the Moorcock interview, which discusses MM and JGB meeting Burroughs and Borges during the New Worlds era. Can any old hands out there supply specifics?

  3. Might it have been in 1969 when JG made his trek to Rio?

    http://www.rickmcgrath.com/jgballard/jgb_deep_ends/jgb_rio_convention.html

  4. ah, could be rick. i don’t really know the background to that trip… do you?

  5. Well, oddly enough, he was there for the Second International Film Festival, which was held in Rio de Janeiro, March 23-31, 1969. What he did in his spare time I don’t know. Where’s Dave Pringle when you need him?

  6. JGB and Borges met in London, probably in April 1975, at a party in John Wolfers Agency. In early May that year I visited JGB (we had met in in Rio in 1969), and also Wolfers, then Ballard’s agent. JW gave me a print of that picture. He was very proud of having had old god Borges cast his spell on his office. (“Look. This is the bottle opener you can see in the photo.”) The photographer is Sophie Baker — another picture she took in the same party landed on the jacket of Love and Napalm: Export USA, where you can see Jim wearing the same suit and the same white carnation on his lapel.

  7. Hola Marcial, la foto la publicaste en la Pendulo numero 2, que fantastica revista-libro! recien me entere el año pasado de la existencia de pendulo (con mis 20 años creo que estoy perdonado) la verdad que fue una publicacion increible, tanto por la seleccion de autores, notas, cuentos e ilustradores… voy a tratar de conseguir, en lo posible, todos los numeros.

    Saludos

    pd: estas a cargo de la traduccion de Kingdom come?

  8. Thanks for the info Marcial!

    I think the meeting must have been in 1972 at the latest, because “Love & Napalm: Export USA” was published by Grove Press in ’72. In those two photos by Sophie baker, JGB sports side-burns just as he did in Rio in 1969, but in both photos he looks rather more portly than he did in Rio, I think.

  9. Sights such as these are rapidly diminishing as we speed through the 21st century. In a hundred years time will folk be enthused by photos of Will Self and Martin Amis chatting? I very much doubt it…

  10. According to Norman Thomas di Giovanni, who attended that party with Borges (he was his translator and secretary at the time), it took place in early May, 1971. Sophie Baker was John Wolfers’ wife. Here is a better version of the photo:
    http://www.cccb.org/ca/album?idg=25226

    Lucho: Gracias por las palabras sobre El Péndulo. Sí, traduje Kingdom Come, que acaba de aparecer en España con el absurdo título (decidido por los editores) de Bienvenidos a Metro-Centre.

  11. Amazing! Amazing! The two of them together !! Were their conversations recorded? Surely the works of Borges and Ballard say more about the human condition than those of Shakespeare et all.

  12. I wonder if Ballard actually visited Buenos Aires?
    BAs is the per capita capital of psychoanalysis. That could have been too much in depth knowledge for old J.G..

  13. JGB was really there… here’s a pix of him:
    http://www.jgballard.ca/deep_ends/jgb_rio_convention.html
    I dunno, Mike… he looks fairly portly to me…

  14. [...] ..”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.”.. read more on Ballardian. [...]

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