Typescript draft of Crash by J G Ballard, revised by hand


These are the opening pages from a draft of Crash, the novel by J G Ballard first published in 1973. It is written out in typescript, with heavy revisions and additions made in Ballard’s hand in blue, red and black ink. Although undated, the revisions within the manuscript indicate that it is an early draft. 

Set in the near-future within an asphalt landscape of roads and motorways, Crash is an extreme exploration of sex, violence and technology that revolves around a group of people who share an erotic obsession with car crashes. In an interview from 1973, Ballard describes Crash’s subject as ‘the sinister marriage between sex and technology’: ‘Sex x Technology = the future. A disquieting equation, but one we have to face’.

Three years earlier, Ballard had staged a highly controversial exhibition of crashed cars in a London gallery called the New Arts Laboratory. ‘People were fascinated by the cars’, he remembered, ‘but I was surprised that these damaged vehicles were continually attacked or abused during the month they were on show – watching this, I decided to write Crash.’ Crash is also thematically linked to The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), an experimental work made up of several texts.
Crash is regarded as one of the most important novels of the late 20th century, but the graphic, challenging subject matter paired with its clinical, detached tone has been highly controversial. ‘TOO SHOCKING FOR WORDS’ ran the headline for Auberon Waugh’s infamous review in the Evening Standard

Plot outline of Crash

Like the author, the narrator is called James Ballard, and much of the action is set around the Shepperton area in which Ballard lived. The novel’s action begins with the narrator, in hospital, having survived a serious automobile accident in which a man was thrown onto his windscreen and killed; his wife, Dr Helen Remington, also survives. After his recovery, the narrator visits the scene of the crash and begins a sexual relationship with Dr Remington, which involves exploring all aspects of the violent sexualisation of motor vehicles.

In the process, Dr Remington becomes drawn under the influence of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a scientist interested in restaging celebrity car crashes for erotic purposes. ‘Through Vaughan I discovered the significance of the automobile crash, the excitements of whiplash and roll-over, the brief ecstasy of the head-on collision’ (f. 4r).

Full title:
The Papers of James Graham Ballard: Crash (Typescript 1): Chapters 1-7
estimated 1970–71
Manuscript / Typescript / Manuscript annotation / Draft
J G Ballard
Usage terms

Typescript draft of Crash, by J. G. Ballard © J. G. Ballard. Reproduced by permission of the J. G. Ballard Estate. All rights reserved. You may not use this work for commercial purposes and the copyright holder must be credited.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 88938/3/8/1/1

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Crash is a novel by the British writer J G Ballard, published in 1973. Three years earlier, Ballard had staged a ...