Crash (J. G. Ballard novel)

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Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author J. G. Ballard
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Postmodern novel, Transgressive fiction
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
June 1973
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
ISBN 0-224-00782-3
OCLC 797233
LC Class PZ4.B1893 Cp PR6052.A46
Preceded by The Atrocity Exhibition
Followed by Concrete Island

Crash is a novel by English author J. G. Ballard, first published in 1973. It is a story about symphorophilia or car-crash sexual fetishism: its protagonists become sexually aroused by staging and participating in real car-crashes.

It was a highly controversial novel: one publisher's reader returned the verdict "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!"[1] The novel was made into a movie of the same name in 1996 by David Cronenberg. An earlier, apparently unauthorized adaptation called Nightmare Angel was filmed in 1986 by Susan Emerling and Zoe Beloff. This short film bears the credit "Inspired by J.G. Ballard."[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The story is told through the eyes of narrator James Ballard, named after the author himself, but it centers on the sinister figure of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a “former TV-scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways”. Ballard meets Vaughan after being involved in a car accident himself near London Airport. Gathering around Vaughan is a group of alienated people, all of them former crash-victims, who follow him in his pursuit to re-enact the crashes of celebrities, and experience what the narrator calls "a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology". Vaughan’s ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with movie star Elizabeth Taylor.

References in popular art[edit]


The Normal's 1978 song "Warm Leatherette" was inspired by the novel, as was "Miss the Girl," a 1983 single by The Creatures. The Manic Street Preachers' song "Mausoleum" from 1994's The Holy Bible contains the famous Ballard quote about his reasons for writing the book.

The singer Glenn Danzig sings about this in his band Samhain's song "Kiss Of Steel" on the album "November-Coming-Fire"


The RanXerox comics story "RanXerox in New York"[3] features a character called Timothy who declares he is sexually aroused by "the meeting of flesh and metal in car crashes", then shows a photomontage he made of a female model with photos of wounds from a medical dictionary, and finally declares that his "dream is to die in an accident at the same time she does and to have an orgasm at the moment of impact". In the (original) Italian version, first published in Frigidaire magazine, Edizioni Primo Carnera (issues No. 14-21, 1982) Timothy almost realizes his dream: forgotten in the trunk of the taxi RanXerox drives while living in New York, he is a collateral casualty of the titanic clash, recorded live by a battery of (still analogue) video cameras, between RanXerox and a gang of deranged fans who want to take his place, dying in the effort. Still Standing, RanX remembers his trunk "guest" and rushes to rescue him. His ecstatic, dying remarks are (rough translation from Memory): "Wow, Ranx... Incredible... who did we crash with?" Brooke Shields, answers the "synthetic thug" (RanXerox' moniker, translated from the original version), and Timothy expires happily, as that was his previously stated ultimate fantasy; the original title of the story was "Buon Compleanno Lubna", Happy Birhtday Lubna, RanXerox'. Lubna is Ranx' human underage thug paramour.


  1. ^ Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom, trans. John Irons (London: Reaktion Books, 2005), 82.
  2. ^ Taylor, Brett (Oct–Nov 2009). "The Forgotten Crash: Nightmare Angel". Video Watchdog (152): 12–16. 
  3. ^ "Heavy Metal Magazine, January 1984, Vol. 7 No. 10, pg.12-20'". Heavy Metal Magazine. January 1984. 

External links[edit]