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Miracles of Life: An Autobiography Shanghai to Shepperton Hardcover – Large Print, 1 Feb 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: ISIS Large Print Books; Large type edition edition (1 Feb. 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0753195240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753195246
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,605,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘A particular delight of this lyrical autobiography lies in spotting the landscapes and events that appear subtly reconfigured, in Ballard's fiction.’ Observer ‘Critics’ Picks for 2008’

‘The long–awaited memoirs of one of the most interesting British writers.’ Sunday Times ‘Picks for 2008’

‘This book should make yet more converts to a cause that Ballard's devotees have been pleading for years: that here, bafflingly unacknowledged, has been one of the greatest and sharpest imaginations at work in literature.’ Independent on Sunday

‘Unobtrusively well–written…and fascinating.’ Literary Review

'The origins of this extraordinary and wonderful writer are now set out in this pellucid, forgiving, tranquil autobiography…this is a remarkable autobiography, treating events which most of us can barely imagine with tranquil dignity and exactness…Ballard has carried out Matthew Arnold's imprecation to “see life steadily and see it whole”. This is an unforgettable farewell.' The Spectator

'Brilliant and mesmerising…this wonderful, clear-sighted autobiography…has a wisdom and depth that makes you long to hug the author and say '”Thank you” and wish him well.' Daily Mail

'What this brief, modest and occasionally shattering book only glances at is the extraordinary body of work that has flowed from this remarkable life…fascinating…."Miracles of Life" also tells quite another story, unconscious and inadvertent, but finally brave in a way that elevates it to a level of greatness.' The Observer

'Exquisitely written…"Miracles of Life", a subtle, restlessly enquiring work of touching humanity, is Ballard's crowning achievement.' Financial Times

'A jewel…as a writer, he can simply take the breath away.' The Independent

'J.G. Ballard's memoir may be short but it is long on compassion, humour and insight…it is infused with a tremendous generosity of spirit.' Tatler

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


'He writes so well on the "surrealism of everyday life".' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a curious mixture of a book. Granted that it was written under strained and special circumstances, it is both revealing and concealing in equal measure. If you are familiar with Ballard's work and have taken an interest in him over the years, you will find nothing new here. It is, however, a joy to have it in one volume. And for all its apparent superficiality, we learn a great deal about Ballard from the structure and level of content of this work.

Nearly half the book is devoted to Ballard's first fifteen years, the time he lived in Shanghai and experienced the strange life of an expatriate community as well as internment by the Japanese. This is also the most fluent and vibrant part of the book.

It may well be that writing of his early life in his fiction, especially in Empire of the Sun, means he is well rehearsed. But it is clear these formative years are seared not just into his memory, but also his psyche. The things he saw and experienced have re-appeared time and again in his writings, sometimes filtered, but always from the same roots.

Elsewhere, there is a reticence, a shyness that produces a sketchy feeling, as if we are seeing an early draft. A pioneer of explorations into the sf of `inner space', his own inner space is closely guarded. Yet what he chooses to conceal is revealing in itself. He speaks of family life, for example, but whilst it is clear that his family was the bright sun at the centre of his universe, dimmed for a while by the sudden death of his wife, it is also clear that the rest is nobody's business but his own and theirs. I find this wonderfully refreshing - we are strangers, after all, those of us who read his books.
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Format: Hardcover
Quite simply, this was a joy to read.

Ballard tells of his childhood in Shanghai, internment there under the Japanese, his university years in England, right through to his writing career and the joys and tragedies he's experienced as a father and husband, and his love of family life.

What makes this book appealing is that it's not only well written and direct, but also that Ballard tells his story with an honesty and poignancy that is so rare in many autobiographies today.

This isn't about Ballard the writer, but about the circumstances and events that shaped and formed his personal values and beliefs.

You don't have to have read Ballard's fiction to enjoy this book either (although his Shanghai reminisces provide a fascinating insight into Empire of the Sun, the novel based on his internment experiences).

What stands out above all else is his enjoyment of childhood and subsequent selfless devotion and enjoyment of family through all the joys and tragedy he experienced.

His life affirming views on childhood, fatherhood, and single parenthood set this book apart from those hundreds of other autobiographies available that only tell of how individuals found (or lost) their fame or fortune.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this down. Ballard writes about his time in Shanghai and makes it seem as normal as my own childhood. Then he returns to the UK - a country he has never been to - and feels a complete stranger.

Ballard's fiction is offbeat and surreal, but completely original - and this autobiography is almost an explanation of where it all came from. Fans of Ballard will find this almost an extension to his fiction.

I could not put this down. The writing is evocative without being wordy, and every page is filled with interesting thoughts.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
l have never read a Ballard book,but found this auto-biography very enjoyable.His narrative is simple and direct,yet it delivers with vigour and zest.This is really two books.The first is the real feast for the reader,his growing up in China and all the English snobbery and meanness.Chinese starved to death,in front of the ex-pat communities, and brutally,tortured and killed by the Japanese.The second book is his life in England.An Englishman who had never been to England.His shock at how the arrogance of the ex-pats contrasted that with the listlessness and low quality of life in England.After the initial shock of finding Britain very different to ex-pat nostalgia,the book flattens out into a little more mundane expose of the rest of Ballards life,and it does not live up to the first book of Shanghai.The photos of him as a 4 year old and his subsequent children are a delight.Ballard was one of a dying generation that lived across the old,decaying world of the colonial ex-pat and new world of youth culture and modern art and fiction,pre 60s and post 60s,and his recollection make for a fantastic holiday or christmas read.A joyous ride through time
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Format: Hardcover
I won't give a synopsis since this has already been done ably by other reviewers. Why this autobiography 'worked' for me is that Mr Ballard has reflected his past experiences to his present situation so movingly, and with characteristic modesty. As a young man he considered his unusual childhood to be of little interest to anyone; only late on in his life has it provided him with explicit material for fiction - and now, with this account - for fact - only latterly has he recognised that he had unconsciously used his childhood experiences as literary motifs.

Judging by his enthusiasm that came through in the middle part of the book, I suspect that Mr Ballard derived most satisfaction in his life from raising his three children on his own following the tragic death of his wife whilst on holiday - an event that he describes briefly, yet deeply movingly.

He doesn't say a great deal about his actual writing (apart from, in his earlier years, writing a short story between dropping off his children at school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon) although he does refer interestingly to some of his books and short stories, and to his literary acquaintances. With some exceptions (Kingsley Amis, Michael Moorcock, Ian Sinclair and Will Self) he appears to have been more 'at home' with avante garde artists than with fellow writers.

I spent some time in a British expatriate community as a youngster, albeit some twenty years after Mr Ballard's time, so I could relate to this part of his life. I'm familiar with the type of people he observed, although I don't recall the grown-ups as leading nearly such dissipated life styles, neither did I witness such extremes of poverty and affluence as existed in pre-war Shanghai ...
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