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J.G. Ballard: Quotes Excerpts: Some Reflections

The planet is turning into a gigantic Disneyland. A gigantic theme park where Japan equals the future, Europe is the past and Africa is a giant apocalyptic disaster area, a continental disaster movie screened for the Western benefit. [I-D, 1987]

I think the modern imagination does take the whole universe as its subject. It’s concerned with metaphysical questions about the nature of consciousness, of experience, of perception. It takes a very large field of enterprise as its arena. [Twilight Zone, 1988]

We are swayed powerfully by forces that suddenly erupt in our plans—we may marry someone, end a marriage, embark on an unexpected career—there are deep currents beneath the surface. [Books #6, 1987]

Homo sapiens has won his intelligence from the ordeal of surviving an extremely hostile environment. [Interzone, 1987]

The human body’s capacity for painkillers is almost unlimited. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

People aren’t ennobled by suffering . . . At the same time, it does strip away a lot of illusions. One pays a terrible price for that, but at least one glimpses some kind of truth. [City Limits, 1984]

[A person’s] obsessions are as close to reality as you can get. [I-D, 1987]

We’re trapped by categories, by walls that stop us from seeing around corners. [Millennium People, 2003]

We tolerate everything, but we know that liberal values are designed to make us passive. [Millennium People, 2003]

The most prudent and effective method of dealing with the world around us is to assume that it is a complete fiction. [introduction, Crash, 1995]

Everything is clean and shiny but oddly threatening. [New Statesman, 2000]

[Joseph] Conrad once said that it’s necessary to immerse yourself in the most destructive elements of the times, and then attempt to swim . . . [French intv, 1976]

Lists are fascinating; one could almost do a list novel. [Paris Review, 1984]

Learn the rules, and you can get away with anything. [M.P., 2003]

Crossing frontiers is my profession. [BBC, 2002]

Freud’s classic distinction between the latent and manifest content of the dream, between the apparent and the real, now needs to be applied to the external world of so-called reality. [Crash, 1995]

A general rule: if enough people predict something, it won’t happen. [New Statesman, 2000]

I always tell the truth . . . It’s a new way of lying. If you tell the truth people don’t know whether to believe you. It helps me in my work. [Millennium People, 2003]

It’s not what you believe: who really knows? Far more important is the map you draw of yourself. [Millennium People, 2003]

Freedom: the last great illusion of the twentieth century. [Hello America, 1981]

My fear is that in a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. [BBC News Online, 2002]

The urge for destruction as a way of redefining oneself is very strong. [BBC Radio, 2002]

Doctors are no more to be trusted than lawyers or real estate agents. [S.F. Eye, 1991]

First wives are a rite of passage into adult life. In many ways it’s important that first marriages go wrong. That’s how we learn the truth about ourselves. [Millennium People, 2003]

We believe in progress and the power of reason, but are haunted by the darker sides of human nature. We’re obsessed with sex, but fear the sexual imagination and have to be protected by huge taboos. We believe in equality but hate the underclass. We fear our bodies and, above all, we fear death. We’re a few steps from oblivion, but we hope we’re somehow immortal. [Millennium People, 2003]

These people were the first to master a new kind of late twentieth-century life. They thrived on the rapid turnover of acquaintances, the lack of involvement with others, and the total self-sufficiency of lives which, needing nothing, were never disappointed . . . [High Rise, 1975]

The trouble with Marxism is that it is a social philosophy for the poor: what we need is a social philosophy for the rich. [IT, 1969]

The mass media have turned the world into a world of pop art. From JFK’s assassination to the war in Iraq, everything is perceived as pop art. [intv Hans Obrist, 2003]

Violence is like a brush fire, it destroys a lot of trees but refreshes the forest, clears away the stifling undergrowth, so more trees spring up. [Millennium People, 2003]

Freedom has no barcode. [Millennium People, 2003]

There are bridges in the mind. They carry us to a more real world, a richer sense of who we are. Once these bridges are there, it’s our duty to cross them. [Millennium People, 2003]

His expression was not so much penetrating as detached and impersonal, as if he were assessing Ward with an utter lack of bias, so complete, in fact, that it left no room for even the smallest illusion. Previously Ward had only seen this expression in the eyes of the very old. [“The Venus Hunters,” 1963]

Surrender to a logic more powerful than reason. [High Rise, 1975]

It’s the inexplicable rebellion from within that’s impossible to predict. [New York Times Magazine, 1990]

Games, for anyone rich from birth, were always the most serious business in life. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

My greatest ambition is to turn into a TV program. [War Fever, 1990]

Life isn’t an avant-garde movie! [War Fever, 1990]

The destruction of time: the next evolutionary step forward? [War Fever, 1990]

The roots of shamanism and levitation, and the erotic cathexis of flight: can one see them as an attempt to escape from time? [War Fever, 1990]

“Old” has a special sort of echo or vibration, doesn’t it, and it’s not a good one. Saying “old” means: Junk it, get rid of it, replace it with a new model. [Independent on Sunday, 2003]

Place the logic of the visible at the service of the invisible. [quoted in Kindness of Women, 1991]

To me the aliens are here on earth, right now. [S.F. Examiner, 1987]

Money is the original digital clock. [Kindness of Women, 1991]

Have you noticed how vocabularies fluctuate in order to cope with our need to justify ourselves? [Millennium People, 2003]

Superstitions, I often noticed, had a habit of coming true. [Kindness of Women, 1991]

There are no answers. But maybe that is the answer. [Independent on Sunday, 2003]

Perhaps the world needs a few people ready to burn themselves out. [Cocaine Nights, 1996]

We are not moral creatures, except for reasons of mutual advantage, sad to say. [Pretext, 2004]

Despair erodes everything: courage, hope, self-discipline, all the better qualities. It’s so damned difficult to sustain that impersonal attitude of passive acceptance implicit in the scientific tradition. I try to think of Galileo before the Inquisition, Freud surmounting the endless pain of his jaw cancer surgery. [“The Voices of Time,” 1960]

We theme-parked the future just as we theme-park everything. We theme-parked the past. We theme-parked the future, and visit it only when we feel we want some sort of glittery gimmick. [Index, 1996]

What you consume modifies your behavior. [paraphrased from ZG, 1985]

So money is the ultimate adult toy? [Super-Cannes, 2000]

People create their own mythologies. [Kindness of Women, 1991]

You can make anything mean anything. [Kindness of Women, 1991]

I treat the reality I inhabit as if it were a fiction: I treat the whole of existence as if it were a huge invention. [RE/Search #8/9, p. 43, 1984]

By any degree to which you devalue the external world so you devalue yourself. [“The Overloaded Man,” 1961]

Two subjects have always fascinated me: women and the bizarre. [“The Smile,” 1976]

The temper of the times seems to be one of self-love, if of a strange sort: Caliban asleep across a mirror stained with vomit. But perhaps the story also illustrates the paradox that the only real freedom is to be found in a prison. Sometimes it is difficult to tell on which side of the bars we really areÑthe real gaps between the bars are the sutures of one’s own skull. [Dangerous Visions, 1967]

The phrase that sums up everything: quantifying and eroticizing. [RE/Search #8/9, p.49, 1984]

Often, behind the most trivial things, lie enormous mysteries. [RE/Search #8/9, 1984]

Remember, the police are neutral: they hate everybody. Being law-abiding has nothing to do with being a good citizen. It means not bothering the police. [Millennium People, 2003]

Memories of the people you love are supposed to last forever, but often they’re the first to go. [Kindness of Women, 1991]

These days one needed a full-scale emergency kit built into one’s brain, plus a crash course in disaster survival, real and imagined. [Concrete Island, 1985]

Who were the first domesticated animals? Women! We domesticated ourselves. But I know women are made of fiercer stuff. We have spirit, passion, fire, or used to. We can be cruel and violent, even more than men. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

Men? We simply don’t need so many men today. The biggest problem the world faces is not that there are too few whales or pandas, but too many men. Their time has passed, they belong with the dugong and the manatee. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

Men exhausted themselves building the world. Like tired children they’re always fighting each other, and they can’t see how they hurt themselves. It’s the women’s turn to take over now: we’re the only ones with the strength to go on. Think of all-women cities . . . parks and streets filled with women. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

Suicide is a suggestive act; it runs in families. [Concrete Island, 1985]

The more they hate you, the more they stay on their toes. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Chance can work for terrorists. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

There should be a ceremony for everything. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

The totalitarian systems of the future would be subservient and ingratiating, but the locks would be just as strong. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Representative democracy has been replaced by the surveillance camera and the private police force. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Sexual pathology is such an energizing force. People know that, and will stoop to any depravity that excites them. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Guilt is so flexible, it’s a currency that changes hands, each time losing a little value. [Cocaine Nights, 1996]

People are so immersed in their work they wouldn’t recognize the end of the world. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Human beings have an extraordinary instinct for self-destruction, and this ought to be out in the open where we can see it. [Pretext #9, 2004]

Nothing is more irksome than the sight of people working all day. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

Our problem is not that too many people are insane, but too few. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Psychopathy is freedom, psychopathy is fun? [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Psychopathy is its own most potent cure, and has been throughout history. At times it grips entire nations in a vast therapeutic spasm. No drug has ever been more potent. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Revenge, anger, envy: invent a new sin. We need one. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

The only real philosophers left are the police. [Cocaine Nights, 1996]

We all have a conventionalized view of human beings: we see them every day, we see ourselves in the mirror. We don’t think of what lies beneath the skin. [“Raising the Dead,” n.d.]

The dead go on opening doors in our minds. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Reality is always a threat. I’m not worried by any rival ideology: there isn’t one. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

The dream of a leisure society was the great 20th century delusion. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Great fires have always been the prelude to even greater futures. [Burning World, 1964]

Remember, it’s not enough to make history: you’ve got to arrange for someone to record it for you. [Wind from Nowhere, 1962]

All women are beautiful. [S.F. Eye, 1991]

Adaptability is the only real biological qualification for survival. At the moment a pretty grim form of natural selection is taking place. [Wind from Nowhere, 1962]

It’s astonishing how the weak always judge the strong by their own limited standards. [Wind from Nowhere, 1962]

The middle class . . . police themselves . . . with social codes. The right way to have sex, treat your wife, flirt at tennis parties or start an affair. There are unspoken rules we all have to learn. [Millennium People, 2003]

A perverse sexual act can liberate the visionary self in even the dullest soul. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

We’re not rational creatures. Madness lies within us; it shows itself in countless ways: from road rage to the behavior of football hooligans. [Spectator, n.d.]

I care about preserving wildlife on the planet. The concrete is looking after itself; the entire planet is going to be covered in the stuff. [Observer, 1994]

Politics is over . . . it doesn’t touch the public imagination any longer. [Frieze, 1996]

I do welcome the modern world: high-rise blocks, motorways . . . My ideal building is the Heathrow Hilton by Michael Manser. Stunning: pure white geometry. [Observer, 1994]

[Attacks on pornography are] attacks on the sexual imagination itself: Morality covers our conduct, not what goes on inside our heads. [Observer, 1994]

Art exists because reality is neither real nor significant. [Disturb]

Fiction is a branch of neurology. [Iain Sinclair’s Crash, 1999]

Human beings have a terrible temptation to imagine a happier past. [Seconds, 1996]

Most people lead what on the whole are largely undocumented lives, bar birth, marriage and death certificates . . . [Introduction, J.G. Ballard: The First 20 Years, 1976]

Nothing is real until you put it in the VCR. [Seconds, 1996]

Everyone who has served in the armed forces knows that there are military bases where the regime of discipline and brutality is far more excessive than it needs to be, and yet doesn’t provoke any revolt and may even satisfy some need to be brutalized. [intv Zinovy Zinik, 1998]

It’s so easy to be more frightened of one’s feelings than of the things that prompt them. [Crystal World, 1966]

Deep assignments run through all our lives; there are no coincidences. [Atrocity Exhibition, 1990]

The crime wave is already there. It’s called consumer capitalism. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Invisible technologies rule our lives, transmitting their data-loads at the speed of an electron. Vast cash balances move around the world’s banking systems, bounced off satellites we never see, but whose electromagnetic footprints bestride continents and form our real weather. [“Speed-Visions of an Accelerated Age,” 1998]

In a real war no one knew which side he was on, and there were no flags or commentators or winners. In a real war there were no enemies. [Empire of the Sun, 1984]

Never confuse the map with the territory. [Empire of the Sun, 1984]

Chapters of my life are still hidden from me. [War Fever, 1990]

Just as the sleeping mind extemporizes a narrative out of the random memories veering through the cortical night, so our waking imaginations are stitching together a set of narratives to give meaning to the random events that swerve through our conscious lives. [Mississippi Review, 1991]

I realize that I could change the course of my life by a single action. To shut out the world, and solve all my difficulties at a stroke, I had the simplest of weapons�my own front door. I needed only to close it, and decide never to leave my house again. [“The Enormous Space,” 1989]

Sooner or later, everything turns into television. [The Day of Creation, 1987]

My own obsession, which had carried me so far, was all that I had. [The Day of Creation, 1987]

Think only of essentials: the physics of the gyroscope, the flux of photons, the architecture of very large structures. [War Fever, 1990]

I thought I could do good, but people resent that; judges and juries above all. Doing good unsettles them . . . Nothing provokes people more than acting from the highest motives. [Rushing to Paradise, 1994]

. . . the belief that impulsive acts alone gave meaning to life. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Like all great visionaries, he needs a disciple. [Super-Cannes, 2000]

Too many of the props in my own life were baggage belonging to someone else that I had offered to carry. [unknown]

Every step we’ve taken in our evolution is a milestone inscribed with organic memories. [Drowned World, 1962]

The brief span of an individual life is misleading. Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory. The uterine odyssey of the growing foetus recapitulates the entire evolutionary past, and its central nervous system is a coded time scale, each nexus of neurons and each spinal level marking a symbolic station, a unit of neuronic time. [Drowned World, 1962]

There may well be some fundamental distinction between light and dark that we inherit from the earliest living creatures. After all, the response to light is a response to all the possibilities of life itself. For all we know this division is the strongest one there is—perhaps even the only one—reinforced every day for hundreds of millions of years. In its simplest sense, time keeps this going. [Crystal World, 1966]

[Earth] is the only alien planet. [Spin, 1989]

Refusals opened the door to other possibilities. [Day of Creation, 1987]

Success, an even more demanding challenge than failure. [Sunday Times, 1991]

New Means Worse. [Guardian, 1981]

In a world of absolute relativity, there is no way of knowing who is telling the truth. [Guardian, 1991]

We don’t really perceive with our own eyes any longer. We perceive through the artificial eye of the mass media. [Blitz, 1987]

Only a truly innocent man can know the meaning of guilt. Only a truly guilty man can conceive of the concept of innocence. [“Backdrop of Stars,” 1968]

A significant moral and psychological distance now separates us from Kafka’s heroes, who succumbed in the end to their own unconscious feelings of guilt and inferiority. We, by contrast, in an age of optimism and promise, may fall equal victims to our notions of freedom, sanity and self-sufficiency. [“Comment on End-Game,” 1968]

Too many of us would rather be involved in a sex crime than in sex. [New Worlds, 1969]

We are bombarded by this absolute deluge of fictional material of every conceivable kind, and all this has the effect of preempting our own original response to anything. All these events are presented to us with their prepackaged emotions already in place, so if you are shown an earthquake or airliner crash you are told what you think. [Mississippi Review, 1991]

My advice to anyone in any field is to be faithful to your obsessions. Identify them and be faithful to them, let them guide you like a sleepwalker. [I-D, 1987]

All our responses are pre-empted before we have even made a direct human response. We are reaching a point in the world today when a direct human response to practically anything is impossible. [Blitz, 1987]

There’s nothing to believe in now. All ideology is gone. The great churches are empty; political ideology is finished; there’s just a scramble for power. There’s a nagging sense of emptiness. So people look for anything; they believe in any extreme—any extremist nonsense is better than nothing. [KGB, 1995]

I think the enemy of creativity in the world today is that so much thinking is done for you. [Observer, 2002]

You can do all the housework in five minutes if you don’t make a fetish of it. [Sunday Independent, 1991]

The only definition of real happiness: to find yourself and be who you are. [Metaphores, 1983]

Nothing is true. Nothing is untrue. [intv. Hans Obrist, 2003]

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