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The Day of Creation by J.G. Ballard

The Day of Creation (1987)

by J.G. Ballard

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567924,873 (3.33)12



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I think, on reflection, that this is a minor Ballard novel. He seems at times to be recycling well-worn Ballardian tropes (abandoned airfields, a protagonist on the edge of psychosis, disturbing sexual imagery) with no clear purpose.

The "hero" Dr. Mallory somehow conjures a mighty river from the dust of the African desert and we are never quite sure if this and his subsequent adventures are real or the product of a diseased mind. The supporting cast are barely fleshed out, even the object of his obsession, teenage girl soldier Noon, is more of a metaphor than a real person.

Don't get me wrong, the quality of Ballard's writing never falters and some of the hallucinatory images are vivid and disturbing. But the plot is weak, the story drags and you never quite connect with Mallory and his river.

Ballard has written better novels, both before and after this one. So, three stars for the writing, but it's not one of his best. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Definitely not my favourite Ballard, this book starts well and I was thinking "wow, 25 years on and still an accurate picture of fringe Saharan Africa" with army, guerrillas, aid workers and economic leeches from the North. But once the river appears we are off into the realms of "the meaning of life" with echoes of "Heart of Darkness". Oddly enough I have recently seen "Mud" and some of the descriptive passages reminded me of that film and it's source.
But as I goes on, it begins to drag and as the water ran out so did my enthusiasm for this book. I don't need to worry about whether or not to read any more Ballard; finishing this means I have read them all and they have generally been more rewarding than this. ( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
*note to self. Copy from A.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
A spring becomes a stream becomes a mighty river in an impoverished and rebel-strewn area of North Africa. A doctor, a widow, a filmmaker and others are drawn up the river towards its source.

This is not amongst my favourite Ballard works. It contains many of the motifs familiar from much of his writing, including doctors, drained pools, abandoned airstrips, decaying social structures, asexual characters who nonetheless lust vaguely and a dreamlike quality. Although it contained many fine passages of writing and some interesting perspectives on some of its subject matter, I wasn't drawn to its end as I expect to be with a good novel. I found it difficult to care what happened in the end, and it was somewhat of an effort to finish. ( )
1 vote kevinashley | Jan 5, 2009 |
The Day of Creation by J.G. Ballard takes the reader on a journey up an imaginary third Nile River. The journey is one part Homer, one part Conrad, a dash or two of Hemingway, lots of J.G. Ballard.

The scene opens in the deserted desert town of Port-la-Nouvelle on the shore of a dried up lake in the middle of Northern Africa. Dr. Mallory, our narrator, is just barely managing to hang on to his work and his sanity in the nearly empty town where he runs a clinic and manages a WHO irrigation project while trying to negotiate his way among the warring rebel and government factions that are fighting over the few buildings, grounded ferry boats and yachts that make up Port-la-Nouvelle.

One day a tractor removing a tree stump for the irrigation project uncorks a river. At first just a small pool, the river soon grows in size and strength, threatening Dr. Mallory's irrigation project, floating the abandoned boats and flooding the nearby animal reserve. Dr. Mallory steals the ferry and sets off up-river to find the source of what the locals are already calling the Red Nile. The desert blooms as Mallory travels. fields and then jungles grow almost over night along the shore of the new river. Birds, fish and other animals return to the banks that the river is soon overflowing. Dr. Mallory is pursued by government officials who want their boat back and accompanied by Noon, a local girl and former guerrilla who is learning English by listening to taped lectures on the car stereo of the government Mercedes parked on the ferry.

There is plenty of interesting stuff in The Day of Creation, as you can probably see. As a new Homeric journey the book works quite well, though the ending is more Joseph Conrad than Homer. But I felt it all went on too long, at 254 pages. The events along the river, attacks by various groups and discoveries of new growth in the desert for the most part, quickly began to feel repetitious to me. The premise is a good one, but it's also one that wears thinner and thinner as the pages pass. I kept thinking this would make a great novella. Too bad it's so difficult to publish a novella these days.

I'm giving The Day of Creation by J.G. Ballard three out of five stars. If you read one J.G. Ballard book, I recommend Crash. (I've not read Empire of the Sun but I hear good things.) ( )
2 vote CBJames | Oct 4, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
But even when Mr. Ballard falls into self-parody, his stylistic signature is as idiosyncratic as Faulkner's, Hemingway's or Henry James's -easy to lampoon, but difficult to analyze. At its best, as in this book's opening two chapters, the effect is at once static and lush. It's particularly effective for evoking the archetypal Ballardian objects: draining lakes, dried-up swimming pools, empty rivers, dusty streets, ruined machinery, beached boats, wrecked cars - or the obsessed men and women haunting them.
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Dreams of rivers, like scenes from a forgotten film, drift through the night, in passage between memory and desire.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0586201009, Paperback)

1st edition paperback, vg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:10 -0400)

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"The parched terrain of Central Africa is the locale....Dr. Mallory has come to the small town of Port-la-Nouvelle to run a WHO clinic, but the surges and countersurges of guerrilla and paramilitary activity in this forgotten and lawless zone have left him without patients. He dreams, instead of bring water to the region, of discovering a third Nile that will make the Sahara bloom...."… (more)

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