The Winds from Nowhere

January 19th, 2007

Here in northern Europe, we’ve been battered by record high winds over the last 48 hours (see BCC story). These and the growing number of climate change disasters being reported bring to mind The Wind from Nowhere, the first of J. G. Ballard’s novels and the first of a series of four, each of which dealt with a world experiencing (or coping with the aftermath of) a global climate change:

  • The Wind from Nowhere (1961) is the most conventional of all Ballard’s novels and one he now dismisses the work as forgettable. High winds flatten the earth and survivors live in pits dug out in the remnants of ruined cities.

  • The Drowned World (1962) foretells global warning and describes a world where London and New York are largely submerged and much of the planet is a series of large and strikingly beautiful tropical lagoons.

  • The Drought (1964) (also published in the U.S. as The Burning World describes another man-made ecological disaster, in which the dumping of radioactive waste causes a shell to form over the seas, turning water into man’s rarest and most precious commodity.

  • The Crystal World, the least overtly about climate change, is generally considered the finest of these novels. The story, about a British doctor journeying a leper colony, encountering a deep African forest to that progressively turns into crystalline forms, has obvious parallels with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and marks Ballard’s own transition into more abstract and experimental worlds such as The Atrocity Exhibition

Only The Crystal World is in print in the U.S., but you can find The Drowned World, The Drought, and The Crystal World in print in the U.K..

You can view artist Richard Power’s covers for these and other of Ballard’s works at Rich McGrath’s treasure trove of Ballard artifacts and criticism, http://www.rickmcgrath.com/jgb.html.

4 Responses to “The Winds from Nowhere”

  1. Jason Kennedy Says:

    Great writer. It is worth noting that Ballard disowned The Wind from Nowhere and it is a truly terrible book. The other three are excellent. Along with High Rise, The Crystal World is, I feel, the pick of Ballard’s novels, something akin to Conrad on strong psychedelics and full of beautiful images.

  2. Chris Kearin Says:

    I’ve always thought that Ballard’s early, “pulpier” books were more interesting than a lot of his later works, though I enjoyed “Empire of the Sun.” I couldn’t force myself through “Crash,” for instance.

    Kobo Abe’s “The Ark Sakura” strikes me as remarkably akin to Ballard: the same postwar / pre-apocalyptic syndrome, the same way of bringing characters in and out of the narrative with apparent randomness.

  3. Jason Kennedy Says:

    Haven’t read Kobo Abe, but another writer very similar to Ballard is Stanislaw Lem. Just read Solaris and it possesses a very similar tone. Lem does have more jokes, though (but not in Solaris)

  4. editor Says:

    I much prefer Lem’s satirical works to his existentialist ones. The Star Diaries is like a 26th century “Gulliver’s Travels.”

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