An autobiography — JG Ballard: Miracles of Life

JG Ballard is known to most readers as the writer of the semi-autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, which was made into a successful movie by Steven Spielberg.

This is his memoir written in old age when he was diagnosed with uncurable prostate cancer.  Writing in early 2007 it was completed in Sep that same year. {p 278}.

The book is brisk and written in a conversational style. He narrates his life with his parents in Shanghai from the time he was born in 1930, their internment in Shanghai by the Japanese invaders from 1943 to 45 to his return to an alien England after the war.

Readers keen to know the origin for, and reason for the omission of his parents from, the autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, why Steven Spielberg is disliked by Americans { as told to Ballard} and why Ballard says his children are the Miracles of Life which he used as the title of his memoir should read this memoir. {p 249 to 259}

Interestingly, Ballard says he and the internees were treated well unlike what we hear of horror stories from Changi prison and the Death on the River Kwai. His dad even flew to Hong Kong after the war to testify for the camp commandant who was subsequently not charged for war crimes. {p 78}.

Ballard and his family lived a sheltered and privileged life in Shanghai. They had 10 servants. To them the, countless deaths of Chinese in the streets due to hunger and disease is a way of life. They felt no amount of help to these destitute people will help as there were too many millions to feed. With such sentiment, one wonders if it would have been worse if Mao had not won the civil war.

Ballard agrees with the dropping of the two atomic bombs to save needless lives. He cited the massacres of civilians by the Japanese in Manila when MacArthur needlessly invaded Manila to fulfil his own glory and pledge ” I Shall Return”. It is a pity this book has no index. Poser – Name the successor book to his Empire of the Sun.

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