Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Author||J. G. Ballard|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.B1893 Hi PR6052.A46|
The building seems to give its well-established tenants all the conveniences and commodities that modern life has to offer: swimming pools, its own school, a supermarket, high-speed elevators. But at the same time, the building seems to be designed to isolate the occupants from the larger world outside, allowing for the possibility to create their own closed environment.
Life in the high-rise begins to degenerate quickly, as minor power failures and petty annoyances over neighbours escalate into an orgy of violence. The high-rise occupants divide themselves into the classic three groups of Western society: the lower, middle, and upper class, but here the terms are literal, as the lower class are those living on the lowest floors of the building, the middle class in the centre, and the upper class at the most luxurious apartments on the upper floors.
Soon, skirmishes are being fought throughout the building, as floors try to claim elevators and hold them for their own, groups gather to defend their rights to the swimming pools, and party-goers attack "enemy floors" to raid and vandalize them. It does not take long for the occupants of the entire building to abandon all social restraints, and give in to their most primal urges. The tenants completely shut out the outside world, content with their new life in the high-rise; people abandon their work and family and stay indoors permanently, losing their sense of time. Even as hunger starts to set in, many of the characters in the novel still seem to be enjoying themselves, as the building allows them a chance to break free from the social restrictions of modern society and toy with their own dark urges and desires. And as bodies begin to pile up and the commodities of the high-rise break down, no one considers alerting the authorities.
The tenants of the high-rise abandon all notions of moral and social etiquette, as their environment gives way to a hunter/gatherer culture, where humans gather together in small clans, claim food sources from where they can (including the many dogs in the building, and eventually even the other tenants), and every stranger is met with extreme violence.
Sheffield band The Human League refer to the title of the novel in the lyrics to Blind Youth included on their debut 1979 album Reproduction: "we've had it easy, we should be glad, high-rise living's not so bad." The band had previously recorded an instrumental track entitled 4JG as a homage to Ballard as a major source of inspiration to their song writing.
For over 30 years, British producer Jeremy Thomas has wanted to do a film version of the book. It was nearly made in the late 1970s, with Nicolas Roeg directing from a script by Paul Mayersberg. However, financing fell through and Roeg and Thomas did Bad Timing instead, and Thomas later went on to adapt Ballard's Crash for the screen with director David Cronenberg. In recent times Thomas has revisited High-Rise, and the project has been in development with Canadian filmmaker Vincenzo Natali attached to write and direct.
- ScreenDaily, Ben Wheatley to direct JG Ballard’s High Rise for RPC"
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