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Empire of the Sun (New Windmills) Hardcover – 31 Mar 1989

78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 269 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann; 1 edition (31 Mar. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0435123424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0435123420
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 866,009 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

‘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

‘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

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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

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First Sentence
WARS CAME EARLY to Shanghai, overtaking each other like the tides that raced up the Yangtze and returned to this gaudy city all the coffins cast adrift from the funeral piers of the Chinese Bund. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By J B Hutchinson on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Pamphleteer on 24 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
Wonderful, troubling, comic and brutal. Ballard's (barely fictionalised) account of his detention as a teenage expat in China during World War II is shot through with the thematic impulses which dominate his work - the dislocation of modernity, the seductive powers of planes and cars, the ugly underbelly of bourgeois lives, and the pleasure people take in disaster.

Despite the extreme violence central to Ballardian fiction, Empire of the Sun contains his most viscerally and physically disturbing images as the young Jim passes the rotting bodies of Japanese pilots and Chinese peasants and moves among the emaciated shapes of the upper-class English kept in the prison camps. Jim's narrative is peppered with the trials of everyday life in war - securing the next potato, passing the boring hours, negotiating the outdated social manners of adults. All of this renders the nightmares of bloodied corpses banal, and all the more disturbing for that.

This deserves its reputation as a classic. It is, however, improved considerably by taking Will Self's advice and exposing yourself to the more nominally 'fictional' of Ballard's novels (notably Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition and the Drought) before delving in here - your experience of the Ballardian social conscience will be all the richer for it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gerry McCaffrey on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. J. Noyes TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
4.5 stars.

Having read Schindler's Ark just last week, this made a fascinating counterpoint, WWII on uh other side of the world, where people may not have been treated as needing extermination, but in actual fact were still appallingly treated.

Jim (Jamie to his parents) is 11 when the home he knows in Shanghai is taken by the Japanese. Fending for himself, his parents vanished, Jim does what he must to survive, his instinct to live overcoming pride and dignity. Through Jim we see the harsh reality of life for a conquered people, the strong and opportunistic who thrive on the chaos of war, the prison conditions that many didn't survive.

And that fact that it's based on the author's own experiences is both illuminating and saddening, that a boy and probably many more like him had to grow up instantly or die.

There are no holds barred in prison life descriptions, and you can really picture the people Jim encounters, though the guards and Japanese in general (as well as the indigenous Chinese) are sketchily written: it's all about the Western prisoners.

Not a light read but powerful and a very good insight into the war in the East.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scarficus on 12 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
The quote on the back of this book from a review by Anthony Burgess is true - that it is 'almost intolerably moving'.

This is surprising as there is not a hint of sentiment in this description of the corpse-strewn apocalyptic deathscape of Ballard's Shanghai internment camp before, during and just after the Second World War.

Empire of the Sun moves the reader because, every so often, maybe only two or three times in the book, a character notices that the endlessly suffering but stubbornly cheerful boy rushing around the camp on an exhausting round of errands is a child alone in a world which terrifies, brutalises and finally kills many of the adults around him. And then we notice.

The boy, Jim, feels the closest sympathy to the kamikaze pilots at Lunghua airfield barely older than himself, sent unregarded and unmissed to their deaths. His brief meeting with a lost kamikaze boy is a recognition of their sameness, rather than their difference.

As Jim knows, it is only by accident, or luck, that life chooses to claim him long after he has begun to believe what millions of Chinese know from birth, that we are all already as good as dead.
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