J.G. BALLARD: Shaping Creative Memory in the East
Martin Amis’s article in the Guardian explores the life and writing of J.G. Ballard.
This observation caught my eye:
“His [J.G. Ballard’s]imagination was formed by his wartime experience in Shanghai, where he was interned by the Japanese. He was 13 at the time and took to the life in the camp as he would ‘to a huge slum family’. But it wasn't just the camp that formed him - it was the very low value attached to human life, something he saw throughout his childhood. He told me that he'd seen coolies beaten to death at a distance of five yards from where he was standing, and every morning as he was driven to school in an American limousine there were always fresh bodies lying in the street. Then came the Japanese. He said "people in the social democracies have no idea of the daily brutality of parts of the east. No they don't, actually. And it's as well that they don't.’ ”
For many long-term expat who live in Asia, while they have unlikely seen coolies beaten to death in the street, have witnessed events, incidents and situations that have fundamentally changed their outlook on life. Writing from inside Southeast Asia for the last twenty years, I can attest to seeing acts of brutality, cruelty, and injustice as well as one of absolute kindness and compassion. Social arrangements shape the way we think and feel about each other. That is a running theme throughout my books.