Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard

After forty years J.G. Ballard put his memories of a World War 11 Japanese internment camp into a novel. Jamie is a young British boy who lives in Shanghai with his parents. After the pandemonium of the Pearl Harbour bombing, Japan occupies the area in Shanghai where he lives and he is separated from his parents. He survives on the run for a while before being interned at the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Centre. The story chronicles Jamie coming to terms with the war. He admired the Japanese and was obsessed with the war. He also found the irrational juxtaposition of war and the deep silence of abandoned villages and the dead deeply conflicting. “The dead were buried above ground, the loose soil heaped around them. The heavy rains of the monsoon months softened the mounds, so that they formed outlines of the bodies within them, as if this small cemetery beside the military airfield were doing its best to resurrect a few of the millions who had died in the war. Here and there an arm or a foot protruded from the graves, the limbs of restless sleepers struggling beneath their brown quilts.”  American bombers airdropped food, saving him from starvation as the Japanese army collapsed. He returned to his parents. The laid-back surrealism of conflict has remained with Ballard “Jim knew that he was awake and asleep at the same time, dreaming of the war and yet dreamed of by the war.”

Leave a Reply