JG Ballard, 64, is best-known for “Empire of the Sun”, his novel about growing up in a wartime Japanese prison camp, and its sequel “The Kindness of Women”. His futuristic first novel “The Drowned World” was published in 1961 [sic]; his latest, “Rushing to Paradise”, is out in paperback next month. He lives in Shepperton, Middlesex.
Sunday Express Interview
From 1995. Interviewer not identified.
[Q] What do you remember most about VJ Day?
[JGB] The sudden disappearance of the Japanese guards from the civilian prison camp at Lunghua, near Shanghai, and the silent skies empty of American bombers.
[Q] What is your most vivid memory of your childhood in Shanghai?
[JGB] Japanese tanks rolling into the International settlement on the morning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A weird clanking.
[Q] Why did you become a writer?
[JGB] To share the experiences of the world with other people and see if they made sense. On the whole I think they have.
[Q] Did the film “Empire of the Sun” do justice to your book?
[JGB] Yes. It is wholly true to the spirit of the novel - Steven Spielberg's best and most serious film.
[Q] How involved were you in the film?
[JGB] Indirectly. Spielberg very kindly gave me a small part as a guest at a fancy dress party in the opening scenes. If you look closely I’m a vague blur in a John Bull costume.
[Q] What is the biggest misconception about you?
[JGB] That I have an overexcited imagination and a special taste for violence. In fact I've always faithfully reported what I see around me. I learned very early on that humans are the most dangerous species of all.
[Q] What do you need help with?
[JGB] My drinking - but alcohol has always been the writer's friend.
[Q] Who do you most admire?
[JGB] Charles Lindbergh, who set off to fly solo across the Atlantic with nothing but his own determination and a packet of sandwiches.
[Q] What do you believe in?
[JGB] The power of the imagination to remake the world.
[Q] What was your most embarrassing moment of the war?
[JGB] Missing roll-call by a few minutes in the camp and having to run down the corridor past all the English families standing to attention outside their rooms while the Japanese guards blew on their fingernails. I've been punctual ever since.
[Q] What is your greatest treasure?
[JGB] The chess set I carried with me into Lunghua camp and which is the only possession I have from my childhood.
[Q] What is your favourite charity?
[JGB] The Burnley Park Dog Fund. Some years ago the council tried to ban dogs from the park, an insane bureaucratic notion. To enter a park it should be compulsory to have a dog with you.
[Q] What has been your proudest moment?
[JGB] The births of my three children, which made me cry for the first time since I was a small boy.
[Q] What would be your last meal?
[JGB] Manna. I was always curious about its taste, and the time seems right.
[Q] Who is beyond the pale?
[JGB] Cricket fans and Morecambe and Wise enthusiasts. Ken Dodd and Rory Bremner are the funniest people alive.
[Q] What first attracted you to write science fiction?
[JGB] It seemed to be about the world we actually lived in - motorways, jet travel, high-tech hospitals - rather than the one described in so-called mainstream novels.
[Q] What's wrong with you?
[JGB] A strain of reclusiveness. The writer's profession plays into the hands of too many antisocial impulses - opening wine bottles, watching afternoon TV, deciding not to mow the lawn.