I have previously highlighted the influence of the Surrealists and Pop Artists upon J.G. Ballard, one of the few modern writers whose name is now an adjective; the word Ballardian conjures up visions of dystopian modernity, denuded man-made landscapes, the all-consuming nature of mass media, entropy, psychological withdrawal and anomie.
This most visual of writers has been a source of inspiration to artists in his turn, either directly referencing his work or by touching upon Ballardian themes.
I have taken liberties with this selection of ‘Ballardian’ imagery. Obviously Rousseau pre-dates The Drowned World and Warhol is directly stated by Ballard as an influence in The Atrocity Exhibition, but in some sense they seem to me Ballardian. The unconscious forms its own connections, there are no accidents and there are no coincidences.
In 1941 Andre Breton with his wife Jacqueline Lamba and daughter Aube left Marseilles bound for New York. Travelling on a crowded cargo freighter they arrived after a long and difficult crossing in the Caribbean island of Martinique, which was under the control of the Nazi-dominated Vichy Regime. His experiences on the island led to the book Martinique—Charmeuse de Serpents and describes his internment in a military prison camp upon arrival. After his release he was to meet, after a series of chance encounters, the Martinican poet, politician and fierce anti-colonialist theorist; Aime Cesaire and his brilliant wife Suzanne.
The encounter was to influence all parties profoundly. Andre Breton praises Aime Cesaire’s book length poem (mixed with prose) Cahier d’un retour au pays Natal (Notebook on a Return to the Native Land) as “nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times.” The Cesaire’s embraced Surrealism as a potential tool to help in the struggle for black identity and self-determination worldwide. Aime was to be one of the founders of the Negritude movement and mentored the revolutionary Franz Fanon, whose The Wretched of the Earth analysed the brutalizing effect that colonialism has upon both the colonized and the colonizer and is widely considered a landmark in the literature of colonial studies.
Serpent sun eye bewitching my eye and the sea flea-ridden with islands cracking in the fingers of flamethrower roses and my intact body of one thunderstruck the water raises the carcasses of light lost in the pompless corridor whirlwinds of ice floes halo the steaming hearts of ravens our hearts it is the voice of tamed thunderbolts turning on their crack hinges a transfer of anolis to the landscape of broken glasses it is the vampire flowers relaying the orchids elixir of the central fire fire just fire night mango tree swarming with bees my desire a throw of tigers caught in the sulphurs but the stannous awakening gilds itself with infantine deposits and my pebble body eating fish eating doves and slumbers the sugar in the word Brazil deep in the marsh.