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Submitted Literature

High Rise

By J.G. Ballard


Madness is a stock theme in Ballard's work, appearing in virtually all of his non-science fiction work.  Thematically, the novels listed here range from pathological sexual obsession ("Crash") to one man’s desire to escape the civilised world and challenge himself, and his sanity, to a battle against nature ("Concrete Island"). Notions of hysteria and collective, infectious madness have been long-term interests of Ballard's, and are demonstrated most clearly in "High Rise", a cautionary tale about the psychological dangers of physical and mental isolation and the pressures of capitalism.  His most recent four novels – "Cocaine Nights", "Super-Cannes", "Millennium People" and "Kingdom Come" explore the impact upon psychological health of modern phenomena such as expansive shopping malls, gated communities and the paradoxical pressures of excessive leisure.     

Key Themes:

  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads
  • Societal Pressure
  • Violence

Significant Quotes / Pages

37 – “The first time it removed the need to repress every kind of anti-social behaviour, and let them free to explore any deviant or wayward impulses. [...] They were free to behave in any way they wished, explore the darkest corners [...] In many ways, the high rise was a model of all that technology had done to make possible the expression of a truly ‘free’ psychopathology”.

136 – “Only in the darkness could one become sufficiently obsessive, deliberately play on all ones repressed instincts.  He welcomed this forced conscription of the deviant strains in his character…this three and degenerate behaviour became easier the higher he moved up the building, as if encouraged by the secret logic of the high-rise”

163 – “let the psychotics takeover.  They alone understood what was happening.”

Reference: J.G., Ballard. 1975. High Rise. London: Flamingo, 2003


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009