Introduced by William Boyd
Illustrated by Tim Laing
The harrowing story of a British boy’s four-year ordeal in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War, based on the author’s own wartime experiences. The first illustrated edition, featuring images by award-winning artist Tim Laing.
In the author’s own words, Empire of the Sun ‘draws on my experiences in Shanghai … and in Lunghua C.A.C. [Civilian Assembly Centre] where I was interned from 1942–5’. The protagonist, Jim, takes Ballard’s first name and, like the author, is born in Shanghai to British parents. Aged only 11 when he is separated from his family during the Japanese takeover, he cycles through the Shanghai streets in search of his parents, scavenging food and sleeping in the beds of vanished families. While roaming the creeks and waste tips of Nantao, he finds a dubious guardian in Basie, a shrewd American hustler, but convinced that his parents are in a prison camp, his only hope lies in surrender to the Japanese, and four brutal years in a civilian internment camp.
‘A remarkable journey into the mind of a growing boy’
Superbly introduced by the celebrated novelist William Boyd, Empire of the Sun illuminates Ballard’s entire body of work, revealing the roots of his nightmarish fiction (wrecked planes, empty swimming pools and tortured physicians) and his obsession with the effects of alienation and deprivation. As Boyd notes, it is Ballard’s ‘entrancing poetry’ that transmutes his own childhood trauma into something extraordinary, a stark world in which terror and beauty are enmeshed.
‘Nothing is as secure as we like to think it is’
J. G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai, China. At 12 years old he was interred, along with his family, in a civilian prison camp during the Japanese occupation, an experience he would later recount in Empire of the Sun (1984). Following the camp’s liberation, Ballard returned to England in 1946 where, after a brief foray into medicine, he started his prolific writing career, which included both fiction (novels and short stories) and non-fiction. His first novel, The Wind From Nowhere, was published in 1961. Ballard’s apocalyptic visions combined with a dark and surrealist style make him one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Beside several collections of short stories, notably Vermilion Sands (1971), Ballard’s novels include The Drowned World (1962), Crash (1973), High Rise (1975), Cocaine Nights (1996) and Millennium People (2003). He died in 2009.
William Boyd is a novelist and short-story writer. Born in Accra, Ghana, he was educated in Scotland and attended the universities of Nice, Glasgow and Jesus College, Oxford. His work has been published around the world and translated into over 30 languages. He is the author of 14 novels, including A Good Man in Africa (1981; winner of the Whitbread Literary Award and the Somerset Maugham Award), An Ice Cream War (1982, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Booker prize), Any Human Heart (2002, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet) and Restless (2006, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year). Boyd is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Tim Laing is a freelance illustrator who studied at Brighton University, where he developed his interest in working from books and short stories. He has since been commissioned by The New York Times and Wallpaper magazine, among others. For The Folio Society he has illustrated Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark (2009), a trilogy of novels by John le Carré (2009) and Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March (2015).
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