powered by RealWire
Tweet Facebook LinkedIn

Archive Of J G Ballard Saved For The Nation

Core Facts

"Ballardian : adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (born 1930), the British novelist, or his works (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard's novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments"
(Collins English Dictionary)

The archive of J G Ballard, one of the most visionary British writers of the twentieth century, has been acquired by the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme and allocated to the British Library.

HM Government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme, managed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is one of the primary ways of ensuring that important cultural treasures pass into the UK's public collections.

J G Ballard's fiction, often shocking, predicted the rise of terrorism against tourists, the alienation of a society obsessed by new technology and ecological disasters such as the melting of the ice caps. Famous for his dystopian visions, Ballard was a provocative writer so distinctive and influential that his name has become an adjective in its own right. His important and lasting literary legacy includes such iconic works as Empire of the Sun and Crash, both of which were turned into major films.

Although J G Ballard was quoted in an interview in 1982 as saying, ‘There are no Ballard archives. I never keep letters, reviews, research materials. Every page is a fresh start', he did keep the manuscripts of his greatest works. Before his death in April 2009, Ballard instructed his daughters (whom he appointed as his literary executors and the executors of his will), on the whereabouts of these manuscripts in his house and expressed his wish for them to be placed at the British Library.

Determined that the archive should remain in the UK and be offered to the nation, Fay and Bea Ballard applied to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. The 15 large storage boxes which currently house the archive contain manuscripts, notebooks, letters, photographs and ephemera, spanning 50 years and covers the full range of Ballard's output from The Drowned World (1962) to Miracles of Life (2008).

At the heart of the archive are the holograph manuscripts which show us how Ballard's fiction and memoirs were composed. Written in ink on one-side of A4 sheets, they are heavily revised, filled with deletions and crossings out, new starts, additions and corrections. The manuscript of Empire of the Sun (1984) runs to 840 numbered pages and contains extensive re-workings and alternative versions of individual paragraphs and sections. The archive also includes the typescripts with editorial markings.  This alone will provide future scholars and researchers with a wealth of new information about the development of Ballard's most widely-read novel.

The archive, which occupies approximately 12 linear metres in shelf space in the British Library, is expected to be fully accessible by summer 2011. It also contains several ‘reporter' notebooks with ideas for books (for example, ‘Topics that interest me - airports ideas re passengers take over airport & establish a city-state'), papers relating to Shanghai and the internment camp at Lunghua (for example, typescript Minutes of Meetings of General Council, 22 August 1944 about the escape of 3 occupants and subsequent restrictions), photographs of a young J G Ballard, his family and their Amherst Avenue home, and ephemera including birth and baptism certificates, school reports and passports.

Correspondence forms a rich and important part of the archive. Ballard saved copies of letters that he sent and the archive also includes correspondence he received from friends and other authors, including Michael Moorcock, Iain Sinclair and Will Self. Two letters in the archive from Ballard's wife Mary to his sister Margaret offer an intimate view of their married life and his early writings (for example, ‘Jimmie has a story in the March "Argosy"... and he is about to start the BIG book.') Many of the copies of out-letters in the archive are to journalists, scholars or students who wrote to him with questions about his work, or asking his opinions, to which he replied with courtesy and great generosity.

These long, full, reflective and revealing letters answer queries, discuss his own work, and offer his views on art and artists, film, the dominant role of the visual, major events and trends, the assassination of Kennedy, politics and politicians, the early Blair years and much more. There are also retained notes on citizenship, modernity, consumerism and other topics. Together these original letters, retained drafts and copy letters and notes provide a fascinating, intimate and unpublished survey of Ballard's world and his views.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:
"The Acceptance in Lieu scheme is now in its 100th year and I cannot think of a better way of beginning the celebrations of this splendid milestone than with the public acquisition of this extraordinary insight into the life and work of J G Ballard. Acceptance in Lieu is one of the most important means of supporting acquisitions by museums, libraries and galleries in the UK. I am sure that the people looking forward to using the archive at the British Library will want to join me in expressing a deep gratitude to the Ballard family for making this fascinating material available to the nation."

J G Ballard's daughters, Fay and Bea Ballard, said:
"We are delighted that the J G Ballard archive has been honoured as an Acceptance in Lieu acquisition. We are also pleased that the archive will take its place at the British Library - as he would have wished - and be widely available to the general public. The material has been gathered from his home to offer an insight into his creative process. We hope the public will come and read his manuscripts, notebooks, letters and more, knowing that these materials will be cared for by the British Library in perpetuity."

Jamie Andrews, Head of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, said:
"It's hugely exciting that the British Library has acquired the pre-eminent archive of one of Britain's most consistently inventive and thoughtful writers: J G Ballard. Our sincerest thanks go to the Ballard family for entrusting us with this archive and we look forward to making this fascinating collection accessible to a wide public over the coming years. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to grow our world-class English literary collections and build on recent major acquisitions such as the archives of John Berger, Ted Hughes and Harold Pinter."

MLA chair, Sir Andrew Motion said:
"The preservation of our literary heritage is a matter of vital importance - and it's tremendously good to know that the expertise and attention of those on the panel of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has been able to secure the papers of such a powerful, original and distinctive writer as J. G. Ballard. We should all be grateful to Jim Ballard's daughters, Fay and Bea, for making the offer of their father's archive to the nation, and for ensuring that his papers will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and study in the British Library."

Two pages from a draft of Ballard's 1973 novel, Crash, whose remarkably extensive textual re-workings reveal the meticulous nature and sheer labour of the creative process, will be on display in The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library from 11 June 2010.

Boilerplate Statements

Notes to editors

  • Manuscripts in the archive are those for The Drowned World (1962), The Crystal World (1966), Vermilion Sands (1971), Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), High Rise (1975), Ultimate City (1976), Hello America (1981), Empire of the Sun (1984), The Day of Creation (1987), Running Wild (1988), The Kindness of Women (1991) Rushing to Paradise (1994), Cocaine Nights (1996), Super-Cannes (2000) Millennium People (2003), Kingdom Come (2006) and Miracles of Life (2008)

  • The J G Ballard archive will be fully catalogued and is expected to be accessible to researchers at the British Library by summer 2011. For any research enquiries, please contact mss@bl.uk  

  • The Acceptance in Lieu scheme, administered by MLA on behalf of the Government, enables taxpayers to transfer important works of art and other important heritage objects into public ownership while paying Inheritance Tax, or one of its earlier forms. The taxpayer is given the full open market value of the item, which then becomes the property of a public museum, archive or library. The acceptance of the Ballard archive satisfied £350,000 of tax. The Acceptance in Lieu Scheme is celebrating its centenary in 2010 having been established by the Finance Act 1910.  Previous literary archives accepted in lieu include those of the novelist Anthony Powell (1905-2000) and the poet Katherine Raine (1908-2003). Details of all the material accepted in 2008/09 can be found at http://www.mla.gov.uk/what/cultural/tax/acceptance_in_lieu

  • The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation. It includes: books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. http://www.bl.uk/ 

  • The British Library is a leading partner in the work of the UK Literary Heritage Group (UKLH), which is working to establish and take forward a national strategy for literary manuscripts and is campaigning for changes in the current tax laws to benefit living authors wanting to deposit their papers with UK libraries. The acquisition of the archive of J G Ballard follows the recent announcement of the British Library's securing of archives of John Berger, Ted Hughes and Harold Pinter.

  • Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) - Leading strategically, the MLA promotes best practice in museums, libraries and archives to inspire innovative, integrated and sustainable services for all. Visit http://www.mla.gov.uk/  

comments will be monitored by Miki Lentin.Comments

Post your comments