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Short biography
Born and brought up in colonial Shanghai comfort, young James Graham Ballard saw his life change forever when, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, Japanese forces swept into the city. The three years he spent in an internment camp moulded his view of "a world turned up-side down" and have constantly influenced his fiction.

Back in Britain, he abandoned his medical studies at Cambridge to become a full-time writer, and his first novel, The Drowned World, was published in 1962. As with many of his works, the wanderings of his characters' minds are charted as minutely as the external world they inhabit. The Drought, The Wind from Nowhere and The Crystal World all strengthened his reputation for bleak but beautiful chronicles of a post-Hiroshima age.

After the death of his wife in 1964, Ballard retreated to Shepperton by the River Thames to raise his three children. But if his surroundings were sleepy and suburban, his imagination remained at the cutting edge. When he produced Crash in 1973, legend has it that one publisher marked in her notes, "writer beyond psychiatric help". Crash, dealing with the erotic possibilities of car accidents, was well ahead of its time. Ballard himself called it "the first pornographic book based on technology" and David Cronenberg's film version in 1996 provoked six months' deliberation for the British censor.

Steven Spielberg's lavish production of Empire of the Sun, Ballard's autobiographical account of his childhood, brought the author financial security and public clamour for his earlier works. At this point, Ballard could have easily put down his pen.

Instead, he has continued to chart the struggle of a restless society, one caught between a need for security and a craving for the reckless. His latest novel, Millennium People, once again describes characters drawn to violence through technologically-induced boredom.

He once called himself "an architect of dreams, sometimes nightmares" and his seeming obsession with disaster, depravity and dystopia is not to everyone's taste. But, in this pop-bang throwaway age, JG Ballard remains curious and alert, reminding us, too, that "imagination itself is an endangered species".
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