Empire of the Sun
J. G. Ballard
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The classic, award-winning novel, made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film, tells of a young boy’s struggle to survive World War II in China.
Jim is separated from his parents in a world at war. To survive, he must find a strength greater than all the events that surround him.
Shanghai, 1941—a city aflame from the fateful torch of Pearl Harbor. In streets full of chaos and corpses, a young British boy searches in vain for his parents. Imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp, he is witness to the fierce white flash of Nagasaki, as the bomb bellows the end of the war...and the dawn of a blighted world.
Ballard’s enduring novel of war and deprivation, internment camps and death marches, and starvation and survival is an honest coming-of-age tale set in a world thrown utterly out of joint.
lost his spectacles and one of his shoes, and the trousers of his business suit were black with oil, but he still wore his white collar and tie. In one hand he held a yellow silk glove like those Jim had seen his mother carrying to the formal receptions at the British Embassy. Looking at the glove, Jim realized that it was the complete skin from one of the petty officer’s hands, boiled off the flesh in an engine-room fire. ‘She’s going…’ His father flicked the glove into the water like the hand
every room in the Maxteds’ apartment. Drawers full of clothes had been thrown on to the beds, ransacked wardrobes hung open above piles of shoes, suitcases lay everywhere as if a dozen Maxted families had been unable to decide what to pack at five minutes’ notice. ‘Patrick…’ Jim hesitated to enter Patrick’s room without knocking. His mattress had been hurled to the floor, and the curtains drifted in the open windows. But Patrick’s model aircraft, more carefully constructed than Jim’s, still
them from their ways. Soon afterwards Jim had impressed his school friends by announcing that he was an atheist. By contrast, Vera Frankel was a calm girl who never smiled and found everything strange about Jim and his parents, as strange as Shanghai itself, this violent and hostile city a world away from Cracow. She and her parents had escaped on one of the last boats from Hitler’s Europe and now lived with thousands of Jewish refugees in Hongkew, a gloomy district of tenements and faded
tepid water in the potato cong. Basie insisted that he and Jim drank only this grey, pithy liquid. Although, like everyone else, Basie was never keen for Jim to come too close to him, he clearly approved of Jim’s efforts. At the end of his second week at the detention centre Basie allowed him to move his sleeping mat beside his own. Lying at Basie’s feet, Jim could intercept Mrs Blackburn on her way to the kiosk. ‘Always look light on your toes, Jim.’ Basie lay back as Jim fanned him. ‘Whatever
them, and the apartment houses of the French Concession rose like advertisement hoardings in the August sunlight. The river was a few hundred yards to their right, its brown surface broken by the wrecks of patrol boats and motorized junks that sat in the shallows. Here, in the approaches to the Nantao district, the devastation caused by the American bombing lay on all sides. Craters like circular swimming-pools covered the paddy fields, in which floated the carcasses of water buffaloes. They