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'Empire Of The Sun' Novelist Ballard Dies

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'Empire Of The Sun' Novelist Ballard Dies

Remembrances

'Empire Of The Sun' Novelist Ballard Dies

'Empire Of The Sun' Novelist Ballard Dies

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British writer J. G. Ballard was well known for Empire of the Sun, loosely based on his childhood in China. But his darker vision resonates. He died Sunday in London at 73.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Dystopia, the word refers to a society characterized by misery and suffering, the opposite of utopia. It's also central to the work of British writer J. G. Ballard, who died yesterday in London.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Ballard's best-known book "Empire of the Sun" was loosely based on his childhood in Shanghai during World War II. There, he spent time in a Japanese internment camp. The book was made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg.

(Soundbite of movie, "Empire of the Sun")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE (Actor): (As Jim) Go, P-51, Cadillac of the sky.

(Soundbite of airstrike)

SIEGEL: Ballard's childhood war experiences shaped the themes of his writing, stories in which technology, rather than uplifting human behavior, perverts it. Perhaps nowhere was this more evident than in his 1973 novel "Crash," which was later made into a film by David Cronenberg.

NORRIS: In "Crash," Ballard's characters find sexual excitement in staging and participating in violent car crashes. In an interview released with the DVD version of the film, the author explained his rather dark take on society.

Mr. J. G. BALLARD (Author): It needs sensation to sustain itself. We're rather in the position of a sort of drowsing animal, drugged by some powerful narcotic agent, who needs electric shocks to keep it awake, and the electric shocks are provided by violence today.

SIEGEL: Not surprisingly, many of Ballard's works were, and remain, controversial, yet he was recognized as one of Britain's leading authors. The writer Martin Amis put it this way: Ballard is quite unlike anyone else. Indeed, he seems to address a different, a disused part of the reader's brain.

NORRIS: As bizarre and disturbing as his fictional world was, Ballard was also a family man who raised three children after the death of his wife. He was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer three years ago.

Writer J. G. Ballard died yesterday in London. He was 78.

(Soundbite of music)

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