Crash (Ballard novel)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
AuthorJ. G. Ballard
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenrePostmodern novel, Transgressive fiction
PublisherJonathan Cape
Publication date
June 1973
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
LC ClassPZ4.B1893 Cp PR6052.A46
Preceded byThe Atrocity Exhibition 
Followed byConcrete Island 

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

In 1996, the novel was made into a film of the same name by David Cronenberg.

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.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The novel received divided reviews when originally published. One publisher's reader returned the verdict "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!"[2] A 1973 review in The New York Times was equally horrified: "Crash is, hands-down, the most repulsive book I've yet to come across."[3]

However, retrospective opinion now considers Crash to be one of Ballard's best and most challenging works. Reassessing Crash in The Guardian, Zadie Smith wrote, "Crash is an existential book about how everybody uses everything. How everything uses everybody. And yet it is not a hopeless vision."[4] On Ballard's legacy, she writes: "In Ballard's work there is always this mix of futuristic dread and excitement, a sweet spot where dystopia and utopia converge. For we cannot say we haven't got precisely what we dreamed of, what we always wanted, so badly."

References in popular art[edit]


The Normal's 1978 song "Warm Leatherette" was inspired by the novel, as reportedly was the international hit "Cars" by Gary Numan in 1979. "Miss the Girl," a 1983 single by The Creatures, is also inspired by the novel. The Manic Street Preachers' song "Mausoleum" from 1994's The Holy Bible contains the famous Ballard quote about his reasons for writing the book, "I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit. I wanted to force it to look in the mirror."[5]

Other film adaptations[edit]

An apparently unauthorized adaptation of Crash called Nightmare Angel was filmed in 1986 by Susan Emerling and Zoe Beloff. This short film bears the credit "Inspired by J.G. Ballard".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ballard, J. G. (October 5, 2001). "Crash". Macmillan – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Halford, Macy (2009-04-20). "J. G. Ballard". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  3. ^ "Crash". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  4. ^ Smith, Zadie (2014-07-04). "Sex and wheels: Zadie Smith on JG Ballard's Crash". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  5. ^ Bradshaw, Peter; Sudjic, Deyan; Simpson, Dave; Sinclair, Iain; Lawson, Mark (April 20, 2009). "How JG Ballard cast his shadow right across the arts" – via
  6. ^ Taylor, Brett (Oct–Nov 2009). "The Forgotten Crash: Nightmare Angel". Video Watchdog (152): 12–16.

External links[edit]