Neural Spaces in J. G. Ballard’s Vermilion Sands

C. Bruna Mancini


The interrelated concepts of ‘space’ and ‘place’ are often confused, even if many critics have defined them as the basic components of our lives and of our imaginary/literary imagination. Essentially, ‘space’ is defined as freedom, openness, threat, movement, and ‘place’ as pause, security, familiarity, home. J. G. Ballard, one of the most famous (post)apocalyptic/sf authors of the last century, has been much affected by questions of space from the beginning of his career. Turning his back on the ‘outer space’ of so many traditional sf stories, he imagined a new and renewable form of sf writing that set off a surreal ‘inner space’: a series of shifting, uncanny imaginative geographies in which the outer world of so-called ‘reality’ and the inner world of the psyche melt and swap their places. In Ballard’s narrative, the two concepts of space and place fuse and overturn, just like internal and external worlds, imagination and reality. Indeed, in Gasiorek’s words, Ballard’s neural spaces can be defined as “borderzones of identity”. In Vermilion Sands, one of the most appreciated among Ballard’s writings, the inflamed, tired, surrealistic landscape is taken from a dream, or from a nightmare: it is a flamboyant suburb of the mind in which the narrators are a reflection of Ballard himself, and the female characters are avatars of the unconscious. All the short stories of this collection seem to evolve into a kind of a metanarrative discussion on the idea of art and life: the surreal artists and their creations can revive their inner worlds while isolated in the desert resort of Vermilion Sands. 


inner space; map; literary cartographer; post-geography; space/place; metanarration

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