Crash (Ballard novel)

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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.

It was a highly controversial novel: one publisher's reader returned the verdict "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!"[1] In 1996, the novel was made into a film of the same name by David Cronenberg.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.[2]

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." [3]

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."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom, trans. John Irons (London: Reaktion Books, 2005), 82.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Taylor, Brett (Oct–Nov 2009). "The Forgotten Crash: Nightmare Angel". Video Watchdog (152): 12–16.

External links[edit]