EPS Review #51 - Super-Cannes

by J.G.Ballard, Picador, 2000

The dustwrapper reviews are ecstatic: "A magical hybrid that belongs to no known genre, a masterpiece of surrealist imagination" (New Statesman), "elegant nightmare" (Observer). But it seemed like a regular thriller to me.

A doctor and her husband Paul Sinclair, the protagonist, slightly crippled from an air crash, move to Eden-Olympia, a business park near Cannes. The previous corporate medic had gone amok and shot a bunch of people. Paul and Jane live in his house, and Paul starts investigating what really happened. It turns out that the corporate psychologist has been arranging therapy sessions that involve real deadly violence against the Cannes underclasses, plus some kinky sex and drugs. The theory is that modern corporate/technological culture is dehumanising, and exercising our ids restores us to balance. But actually, there isn't any technology in this book, unless you count automobiles and swimming pools, nor is there any realistic depiction of corporate culture. It's ok as a thriller, though, if perhaps a little long. I admit I am biased against the whole Riviera/resort setting.

Judging from Amazon, Ballard is a cult phenomenon. Two of his books have been made into movies -- Empire of the Sun and Crash. Patricia loved the former, though Suo Gan sung in treble boys' voices had a lot to do with it. That book and its sequel The Kindness of Women both sound more interesting than "Super-Cannes." I note he has also written some SciFi (Vermilion Sands, yet more hotels and movie stars) and even part of A Tribute to H P Lovecraft.

Steve wrote: Now I don't feel too badly about not reading Super-Cannes yet. But I am a Ballard fan. I highly recommend Empire of the Sun and the Kindness of Women. The former is better than the movie (which I thought was itself pretty good) and the latter, his memoir, is really gripping in places. It also helps explain how Ballard could write that other cult classic: "Crash". Despite lots of weird sex and semi- or total hallucinogenic experiences, in "Kindness" Ballard actually writes a paean to his children and family life. Sort of makes one feel there's hope for us all!