I don’t remember what brought me to J.G. Ballard. I think it was that time during my twenties, where I scanned other people’s Amazon-booklists for hours and hours and hours.
Ivan Goncharov, Knut Hamsen, Julio Cortázar, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Osamu Dazai are but a few of the fascinating authors I found this way.
And then there was Ballard with his RE/Search-edition of The Atrocity Exhibition, a lovingly illustrated and annotated version of the seminal masterpiece from 1970.
Heavily influenced by Cut-Up-writers like William Burroughs, it’s a mesmerizing blend of pop-cultural artefacts, memes and tropes. “Why I want to fuck Ronald Reagan”, “The University of Death”, “You: Coma: Marylin Monroe” are just some of the chapter titles that sound like unsung songs of the best band that never was (am I starting to cry?). People die and reappear, landscapes and psyches merge, World War III is about to happen, Marylin Monroe commits suicide, JFK gets assasinated and the protagonist’s (a psychiatrist) mind slides further into a full-blown psychosis.
They hung on the enameled walls like the codes of insoluble dreams, the keys to a nightmare in which she had begun to play a more willing and calculated role. Primly she buttoned her white coat as Dr. Nathan approached, holding his gold-tipped cigarette to one nostril. ‘Ah, Dr. Austin…What do you think of them? I see there’s War in Hell.’