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Empire of the Sun (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) [Paperback]

J. G. Ballard , John Lanchester
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

28 Aug 2014 Harper Perennial Modern Classics

The classic, heartrending story of a British boy’s four year ordeal in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War. Newly reissued with an introduction by John Lanchester.

Based on J. G. Ballard’s own childhood, this is the extraordinary account of a boy’s life in Japanese-occupied wartime Shanghai – a mesmerising, hypnotically compelling novel of war, of starvation and survival, of internment camps and death marches. It blends searing honesty with an almost hallucinatory vision of a world thrown utterly out of joint.

Rooted as it is in the author’s own disturbing experience of war in our time, it is one of a handful of novels by which the twentieth century will be not only remembered but judged.

This edition is part of a new commemorative series of Ballard’s works, featuring introductions from a number of his admirers (including Zadie Smith, Rivka Galchen, Hari Kunzru and Martin Amis) and brand-new cover designs from the artist Stanley Donwood.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (28 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007851960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007851966
  • ASIN: 0007221525
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai, where his father was a businessman. After internment in a civilian prison camp, he and his family returned to England in 1946. He published his first novel, The Drowned World, in 1961. His 1984 bestseller Empire of the Sun won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was later filmed by Steven Spielberg. His memoir Miracles of Life was published in 2008. J.G. Ballard died in 2009.

Product Description

Review

‘An extraordinary achievement’ Angela Carter

‘A remarkable journey into the mind of a growing boy … horror and humanity are blended into a unique and unforgettable fiction’ Sunday Times

‘Remarkable … form, content and style fuse with complete success … one of the great war novels of the 20th century’ William Boyd

‘Gripping and remarkable … I have never read a novel which gave me a stronger sense of the blind helplessness of war … unforgettable’ Observer

‘A brilliant fusion of history, autobiography and imaginative speculation. An incredible literary achievement and almost intolerably moving’ Anthony Burgess

From the Back Cover

“May well be that great British novel about the last war for which we’ve had to wait forty-odd years. Significantly enough, there are no heroics – scarcely any combatants, in fact. Only a British schoolboy lost in Shanghai when the Japanese invade, a vast company of the doomed, Shanghai itself and, in the background, history working itself out. An extraordinary achievement.”
ANGELA CARTER

“A remarkable journey into the mind of a growing boy … horror and humanity are blended into a unique and unforgettable fiction.”
SUNDAY TIMES

“An immensely powerful novel – in a class of its own for sheer imaginative force.”
DAILY TELEGRAPH

“Remarkable … form, content and style fuse with complete success … one of the great war novels of the 20th century.”
WILLIAM BOYD

“An extraordinary addition to our modern literature of war. Indeed, if there is still room for a masterpiece about the Second World War, then this is it.”
ROBERT NYE, 'Guardian'

“Explores a world light-years away from that of conventional war fiction.”
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

“Gripping and remarkable … I have never read a novel which gave me a stronger sense of the blind helplessness of war … unforgettable.”
OBSERVER

“Ranks with the greatest British writing on the Second World War.”
THE TIMES

“A brilliant fusion of history, autobiography and imaginative speculation. An incredible literary achievement and almost intolerably moving.”
ANTHONY BURGESS

Winner of the 'Guardian' fiction prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking masterpiece 22 Jan 2004
Format:Paperback
Although everything I have read by Ballard is excellent, I would recommend this book as a starting point. The author weaves autobiography with fiction in a compelling way; in some places the novel hints at the dream-like sequences that he has deployed in other works, but the story is firmly grounded in reality. The most apparent theme is that of survival, but I don't think Ballard wrote this with any kind of agenda; perhaps that's what's so refreshing about it.
One of his greatest talents as a writer is finding moments of beauty in what, for lesser writers, would be mires of ugliness. Ballard's voice is thoroughly modern throughout, despite the book's retrospective narrative: you can instantly tell this is the author of 'The Concrete Island' or 'High Rise', despite how remote those novels are from the second world war.
Those who have seen Spielberg's film will be thoroughly shocked: there is little sentimentality here, and the story is quite different in its later stages. Not that the film is a poor adaptation - rather, it's a seperate entity. Always read the book first!
It's wonderful that an author can use his past as a starting point for fiction, rather than being either grounded in it or evading it. It's hard to tell what is fact from what isn't, and surely that's a good thing.
Finally, I must stress that this is a book which not only survives several repeated reads but seems to require it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master work 26 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback
Empire of the Sun is one of JG Ballard's more accessible books which tells the story of a young boy, Jim, and his experiences in Shanghai during World War Two. How many of the events in the book are taken directly from his experience is not entirely clear but the fact that he is informed by first hand experience gives the book a chilling authenticity.

The book is written entirely from the boy's point of view; all events and situations are described in Jim's own words and grounded in his own experience. Ballard makes no attempt to interject any adult interpretations or provide a retrospective opinion and maintains the integrity of the style throughout. This is no mean feat and is a clear indication of Ballard's talent as a writer.

A magnificent work by one of the greatest living English speaking novelists.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baby King Rat 10 Aug 2012
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The shocking brutality of life in and around a Japanese Internment Camp. The bookends of the story are Pearl Harbour and Nagasaki.

The triumph of this novel is to tell this horrific story through the eyes of young Jim a ten year old boy separated from his parents and effectively an orphan. The harrowing details of, inter alia, forced death marches, being literally worked to death in the construction of an airstrip, casual and extreme brutality, starvation, are all perceived from a child's viewpoint.

This is a child who is so hungry he 'sucks his own knuckles, grateful for the taste of his own pus' yet who still admires the Japanese pilots and, extremely controversially, regards the British 'as passive as the Chinese peasants'. Because it is told from the child's viewpoint it almost acted as a defence mechanism for the reader, otherwise it would have been tempting to avert one's eyes in disgust.

This gripping novel shows what happens when the veneer of civilisation is removed and Jim pursues his extraordinary childhood without any parental or moral authority.

The fact that much of the content is autobiographical adds gravitas. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Empire was a gret book to read. As an 18 year old doing his HSC in Australia, i found it complex in both the area of the themes as well as the plot and setting. Ballard, who obviously has an experience in this area, but does not claim this to be an autobiography, has captured the audience from the first chapter to the last. Empire is well worth the buy. The only negative about the book that I came across was the monotony of the scenes in places, other than that, excellent!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly good 18 April 2013
By bezza79
Format:Paperback
This book is just breath-taking. Its a terrific read. Very exciting and fast paced on the first and final third. Packed with detail from someone who was actually there. A real treat
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book i have read in a very long time 4 Dec 2006
Format:Paperback
This book is simply fantastic. I usually read fantasy but remembered the film as a child and then bought the book. I read the book then watched the fim again and i advise that you read the book first as the film no where near captures the true desolation, despair, euphoria, death,hunger, desperation, fear and love that the book invokes in vision and mind. This may be because the film was directed at a younger audience whereas the book i feel is directed toward adults both in its theme and style.

The book is set in second world war japan and tells the heart rending story of Jim who becomes separated from his well to do parents in shanghai in a crushing crowd of fleeing people in the midddle of the city after Japan attacks America at Pearl Harbour. In the ensuing chaos jim returns home and waits there for 4 days for his parents who he does not know have been taken as prisoners of war along with most other westerners.

After exhausting his food supply he goes in search of his parents nad for more food,even trying to surrender to the japanese, with no luck. He befreinds 2 US soldiers philandering on the waterfront whom Jim attached himself for survival in spite of their attempts to sell him to uninterested Japanese. What ensues could most possibly be the best writing of all time considering fiction which still never ceases to amaze me. Jim ends up in a PoW camp himself, and is made even more true by JG Ballards own real life experience in a Japanese PoW camp and Jim's survival instinct coupled with his innate childishness is makes for a truly remembering read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars old favourite
Ordered this to read as I love the film. I still prefer the story in the film, even though only elements of it are close to the truth, it is just a story. Read more
Published 2 months ago by E. A. Mcnair
2.0 out of 5 stars Empire of Shadows and Terror
I did not find this an easy book. My edition (pub The Times) ran to 285 pages of closely typed print and 42 chapters. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Adrian Maxwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book
Incredibly well written and engrossing. I've read it three times so far - in the space of about 2 years. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Steve SR 800
5.0 out of 5 stars Ballard's best
I say this but I haven't read them all. A pretty weird writer but I think I'd like him if I met him.
Published 3 months ago by Charlie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good interesting read
Never knew what went on in China in WW2. This story certainly puts you in the picture. War is such a waste of life.
Published 4 months ago by J A Dobbelaar
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, moving coming of age story under terrible circumstances
At once a coming of age story and a piece of historical reportage (however fictionalised obviously, since it's a novel), the book brims with emotion (but not self-pity) and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by FM
4.0 out of 5 stars So far so good ... worth a read
Presentation

Cover different to that on Amazon. School library edition. 3/5

Content

Having read J G Ballard's biography I expected repetition but... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Alexander Kreator
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I enjoyed this book. I had seen Steven Spielberg's film of the story a couple of times and while looking for another book, I saw this one and decided to get it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Davecg99
5.0 out of 5 stars Growing up in a Japanese Internment camp.
Empire of the sun.... Or Shanghai in the war years through the eyes of a European boy..... I sometimes wonder how hard it was for JG Ballard to write this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Tweedledum
5.0 out of 5 stars Empire Of The Sun
Great book for anybody who has seen and liked the film, don't expect it to be a carbon copy the book is far more detailed and interesting, if you enjoy this book look for the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
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