This review is more or less a random collage of fragments that appealed to me: fragments of reviews found on Goodreads, of the book’s preface by William Burroughs, of Hari Kunzru’s introduction, of a 2019 text by Rob Doyle in The Irish Times, and quotes from Ballard & the book itself.
Part of this review also went through an additional process, as I asked an AI to attempt to integrate & summarize some of these fragments into a coherent whole – but I don’t think it did very well on that front.
My editing is fairly minimal, not zero. I also wrote a few sentences or parts of sentence of my own.
In 1964 J.G. Ballard’s wife died suddenly of pneumonia, leaving him to bring up their three children alone. In 2007, when he was already terminally ill, Hari Kunzru interviewed him. “I was terribly wounded by my wife’s death. Leaving me with these very young children, I felt that a crime had been committed by nature against this young woman – and her children – and I was searching desperately for an explanation . . . To some extent The Atrocity Exhibition is an attempt to explain all the terrible violence that I saw around me in the early sixties. It wasn’t just the Kennedy assassination . . . I think I was trying to look for a kind of new logic that would explain all these events.”
The Atrocity Exhibition is a challenging read that takes the reader on a journey into the abstract and hallucinatory realm of Ballard’s writing. It crosses over from his more familiar territory of cold and sterile science fiction and delves into a world reminiscent of Burroughs. The central narrative is elusive, making the reading process difficult, but for some it might be worthwhile if you are up for the challenge.