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J. G. Ballard's 'Elaborately Signalled Landscape': The Drafting of Concrete Island

Chris Beckett (notes)

Abstract

The archive of J. G. Ballard at the British Library contains two very different draft texts for Concrete Island: an undated typescript substantially revised by hand, and a 'first draft screenplay' dated 20 September 1972. The screenplay is, in the author’s words on the title page, 'from the novel of the same title'. However, it is apparent that the screenplay is based not upon the final text of the novel but upon the unrevised typescript draft. A comparison of the two documents indicates that Ballard only turned to revising the novel by hand after having drafted the screenplay. Substantial revisions to the novel include, for example, removing the island's mummified old man (a figure present in both the typescript and the screenplay) and changing the circumstances of Proctor's death. The essay includes images of a number of draft passages that illustrate the development of the composition of Concrete Island, from typescript draft – through the intermediary text of the draft screenplay – to the revised and final text of the novel.

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