Ballard and Balladur: Reading the Intertextual and the Architectural in Concrete Island

Richard Brown


Concrete Island’s ([1974] 1994) complex intertextuality invites its readers to see the protagonist Robert Maitland as a kind of Robinson Crusoe of the Kafkaesque contemporary environment. Such an interpretation can be further developed by invoking other non-literary intertextual references, including an intriguing reference in the novel to the architecture of the Mediterranean leisure complex La Grande Motte, designed by Ballard’s near namesake Jean Balladur. This connection, striking in itself, reinforces and extends recent claims that the work is in dialogue with contemporary debates concerning architecture, especially that of leisure spaces. The following article frames this dialogue by using the work of Walter Benjamin on modernity, in which the architectural is said to be experienced both through aesthetic contemplation and in a state of distraction through habitual use and embodied familiarity. The approach provides the reader with a language with which to decode the novel’s themes and highlights the significance of its surreal tactile and bodily imagery as it explores Maitland’s responses to his surreal predicament on the island through such intertextual parallels.


intertextuality, La Grande Motte, Walter Benjamin, architecture, embodiment

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