Vaguely on the Run

Sam Gilpin

  • Super-Cannes by J.G. Ballard
    Flamingo, 392 pp, £16.99, September 2000, ISBN 0 00 225847 1

‘Here, at the newly named Antibes-les-Pins, will arise the first “intelligent city” of the Riviera,’ J.G. Ballard wrote in ‘Under the Voyeur’s Gaze’, an essay that appears in A User’s Guide to the Millennium, a collection of his journalism. He went on:

The ten thousand inhabitants in their high-tech apartments and offices will serve as an ‘ideas laboratory’ for the cities of the future, where ‘technology will be placed at the service of conviviality’. Fibre optic cables and telemetric networks will transmit databanks and information services to each apartment, along with the most advanced fire, safety and security measures. To cap it all, in case the physical and mental strain of actually living in this electronic paradise proves too much, there will be individual medical tele-surveillance in direct contact with the nearest hospital.

The words in quotes presumably come from the publicity brochure for Antibes-les-Pins, but you can almost hear the glee in Ballard’s dry, clipped prose as he picks out phrases which might have originated in one of his own technological fantasies – the ‘intelligent city’ and the ‘ideas laboratory’ appear again in Super-Cannes. Perhaps even more Ballardian is the promise of psychiatric invigilation, which also finds a place in his latest novel.

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