Read Concrete Island by J.G. Ballard Online


On a day in April, just after three o'clock in the afternoon, Robert Maitland's car crashes over the concrete parapet of a high-speed highway onto the island below, where he is injured and, finally, trapped. What begins as an almost ludicrous predicament in Concrete Island soon turns into horror as Maitland - a wickedly modern Robinson Crusoe - realizes that, despite evideOn a day in April, just after three o'clock in the afternoon, Robert Maitland's car crashes over the concrete parapet of a high-speed highway onto the island below, where he is injured and, finally, trapped. What begins as an almost ludicrous predicament in Concrete Island soon turns into horror as Maitland - a wickedly modern Robinson Crusoe - realizes that, despite evidence of other inhabitants, this doomed terrain has become a mirror of his own mind. Seeking the dark outer rim of the everyday, Ballard weaves private catastrophe into an intensely specular allegory....

Title : Concrete Island
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312420345
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 176 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Concrete Island Reviews

  • William1
    2019-03-18 09:24

    3.5 stars. Not SF as I ordinarily think of it, more a quasi dystopia set in the present-day. Affluent Robert Maitland crashes his Jaguar on a precipitous traffic island such as we see all the time occupying the waste ground between ramps and highways. He climbs the grade to street level, but the traffic's too fast and there are no shoulders. He struck in the hand by an oblivious passing motorist. Then inflammation and sets in; his injuries keep him feverish in the wrecked Jag. When he's ambulatory again, though barely, the island begins to reveal heretofore unsuspected features. Maitland comes across the foundations of an old suburban neighborhood razed long ago to make way for the interchange. He discovers the basements of old rowhouses, a cinema, Cold War-era air-raid shelters, a breaker's yard, etc. Then he realizes he's not alone. By this time, though he won't admit it, or won't accept it--his position is never made entirely clear--he doesn't want to leave the traffic island. Memories of his previous existence--his lovers, profession, friends--grow hazy, distant. The writing is almost wholly vivid description. If anything, it might be said to be overly described. This leaves the reader with an almost vertiginous effect, as if the traffic island were somehow in motion, instead of static. (It's times like these when I realize I read too closely. Certainly the breezy reader, rushing ever onward solely for the sake of plot, would hardly notice.) Except for a rare turgid patch where a metaphor or a bit of description doesn't quite work, the novel is highly readable. I think Ballard's later stories and especially his first memoir, Empire of the Sun, show a subtler writer at work, but Concrete Island is hardly amateurish. It simply represents an earlier stage in his artistic development, and for those of us who like to track a writer's themes and obsessions over time, it may be all the more interesting because of that. Highly recommended.

  • Susan Budd
    2019-03-04 09:00

    The first book I read by Ballard was The Drowned World. What I liked most about it was the imagery. The story itself, especially once the action truly began, seemed much less important than the mood Ballard established at the beginning with his lush descriptive writing. However, with Concrete Island, I was immediately captivated by the story.This is the story of one man, Robert Maitland, and for almost half the book he is the only character. I like that. I like stories that focus on a single individual and especially on the inner workings of that individual’s mind. The theme of isolation in The Drowned World is even more pronounced in Concrete Island. When two other characters are finally introduced, they are just as isolated as Maitland is. And not just isolated—alienated. They dwell smack in the middle of a traffic interchange, yet they are alienated from the society that streams around and above them. Maitland’s isolation did not begin when he crashed onto the traffic island. As Jane tells him, “you were on an island long before you crashed here” (141). The accident that trapped him on the island was just the outer manifestation of his inner reality. This is something I liked in The Drowned World: the way Ballard combines the inner world and the outer world.Maitland is alienated from his family, from his mistress (and the presence of a mistress only reinforces his alienation from his wife), and from society. And this is apparently a pattern in his life. It goes back to his childhood.“Most of the happier moments of his life had been spent alone” (27).Once he is stranded on the island, his inner isolation becomes something physical. He is alone. He is invisible. Even when he tries to summon help, no one stops. He can see his office building, but the people within cannot see him. He can see his wife’s car go by, but she cannot see him. No one is expecting him—neither wife nor mistress nor co-workers—so no one will notice that he is gone. Maitland’s fate is the fate of the individual in the dehumanizing modern world, a technological world that alienates people from each other even as it crowds them closer and closer together, a social world that leaves a man feeling empty even when he possesses all the social marks of success—a Jaguar, a mistress, a high-paying career. Ballard’s style is less luxuriant in Concrete Island than it was in The Drowned World. Appropriately so. The Drowned World depicted an overgrown tropical jungle. It needed a lush rich language, dense with metaphor and imagery. Concrete Island demands a concrete language, but not one entirely devoid of metaphor. After all, the island on which Maitland is marooned is not entirely devoid of life. There is grass. The grass is personified. “The grass seethed around him in the light wind, speaking its agreement” (68).“The grass rustled excitedly, parting in circular waves, beckoning him into its spirals” (68).“The grass lashed at his feet, as if angry that Maitland still wished to leave its green embrace” (68).“... he followed the grass passively as it wove its spiral patterns around him” (74).Maitland goes from trying to escape the island to trying to “dominate” the island. The island, of course, is himself.“More and more, the island was becoming an exact model of his head. His movement across this forgotten terrain was a journey not merely through the island’s past but through his own” (69-70).To seek “dominion” over the island is to seek dominion over himself. Just like in The Drowned World, Ballard introduces more characters and action in the second half of the book, but I think it works better in Concrete Island than it did in The Drowned World. Jane and Proctor are also alienated individuals. Together the three characters reveal three different relationships to the island: Maitland arrived on the island suddenly, violently, and involuntarily. Proctor’s arrival was gradual. The highway was simply built around him. Having no motivation to leave, he allowed himself to be isolated. Now the island is his protection from the outside world.“He deliberately sought out the areas of deepest growth, as if he were most at home in the invisible corridors that he had tunnelled in his endless passages around the island” (127). Even his little shack serves to shut out the rest of the world.“The quilted floor merged into the walls, as if the lair had been designed to blunt and muffle all evidence of the world outside” (122).Jane comes and goes as she pleases, moving mysteriously between the outside world and her isolated island existence. Yet her dealings with the outside world only highlight her alienation. As a prostitute, she forms no real connections. This is her protection. Maitland can relate to this.“His relationships with Catherine and his mother, even with Helen Fairfax, all the thousand and one emotionally loaded transactions of his childhood, would have been tolerable if he had been able to pay for them in some neutral currency, hard cash across the high-priced counters of these relationships” (142). This is what the world can do to people. And when it becomes more than they can bear, they retreat from it, slipping in and out silently, without leaving a mark on it, like Jane. Or passively letting it go on around them while remaining apart from it all, like Proctor. Or being abruptly flung out of it by an accident that was waiting to happen, like Maitland. In Concrete Island, Ballard creates a fitting metaphor for the social and emotional alienation that plagues modern men and women.

  • Stuart
    2019-03-09 04:13

    Concrete Island: Stranded in modernity like a latter-day CrusoeOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureIn the early 1970s, J.G. Ballard was busily creating modern fables of mankind’s increasingly urban environment and the alienating effect on the human psyche. Far from humans yearning to return to their agrarian and hunter-gatherer roots, Ballard posited that modern man would begin to adapt to his newly-created environment, but at what price? Ballard’s protagonists in Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), and High-Rise (1975) are modern, urbane creatures, educated and detached, who embrace their technology-centric urban lifestyles. But when conditions change, their primitive urges and psychopathologies emerge to horrifying effect.In Concrete Island, a modern-day retelling of Robinson Crusoe, Ballard introduces the most unlikely set-piece for a modern novel, an overlooked patch in our overdeveloped cities, a triangular overgrown traffic island bordered by two expressways. This is the opening passage of the book:Soon after three o’clock on the afternoon of April 22nd 1973, a 35-year-old architect named Robert Maitland was driving down the high-speed exit lane of the Westway interchange in central London. Six hundred yards from the junction with the newly built spur of the M4 motorway, when the Jaguar had already passed the 70 m.p.h. speed limit, a blow-out collapsed the front nearside tyre. The exploding air reflected from the concrete parapet seemed to detonate inside Robert Maitland’s skull.During the few seconds before his crash he clutched at the whiplashing spokes of the steering wheel, dazed by the impact of the chromium window pillar against his head. The car veered from side to side across the empty traffic lanes, jerking his hands like a puppet’s. The shredding tyre laid a black diagonal stroke across the white marker lines that followed the long curve of the motorway embankment. Out of control, the car burst through the palisade of pinewood trestles that formed a temporary barrier along the edge of the road. Leaving the hard shoulder, the car plunged down the grass slope of the embankment. Thirty yards ahead, it came to a halt against the rusting chassis of an overturned taxi. Barely injured by this violent tangent that had grazed his life, Robert Maitland lay across his steering wheel, his jacket and trousers studded with windshield fragments like a suit of lights.Our protagonist Maitland finds himself injured and dazed, unable to climb up the steep embankments but also invisible from the drivers on the expressways. He tries to get drivers’ attention as they drive to and from home to work on the weekdays, and then as they drive off to picnics and other leisure activities on the weekend. As the days go by, he tries various ways to escape his situation, but fails to do so. He uses his store of wine from the trunk of his Jaguar to dull his pain and hunger, and finally resorts to setting his vehicle on fire to get attention. This does succeed in getting the attention not of passerby but instead two marginal individuals who have broken off from society: Jane, a young woman fleeing an unhappy marriage, and Proctor, a simpleton who was formerly an acrobat in a traveling circus. Proctor is strong but subservient to Jane, and she lives a strange decadent existence, turning tricks with passing motorists and smoking marijuana in an abandoned theatre.When Maitland first encounters the two, they control the situation but extend aid to him. As he recuperates, his initial urgency to get back to his easy but empty existence with his wife, child, and mistress lessens, as he starts to find a strange comfort in leaving behind all the everyday stresses of modern life. He develops a sexual relationship with Jane, who insists on being paid five pounds to ensure there are no emotional ties whatsoever. Maitland seeks to enlist the aid of Proctor, but it is only when he exerts force over both Jane and Proctor that they grant him grudging respect. He then exploits Proctor by performing an unspeakable act of humiliation, as the vestiges of civilized behavior seem to melt away from him. The ending is inconclusive and leaves us with no clear-cut moral to ease our discomfort.The story of Concrete Island is very simple indeed, almost a stage play with three principle actors, except that the most important character is the setting itself, the forlorn and ignored patch of discarded objects and marginal people which make up this island. The character of Maitland is far from a heroic protagonist, as his behavior becomes increasingly instinctual and selfish. And yet there is a strange appeal to their lives, forgotten by the modern world surrounding them. The ambiguity with which Ballard infuses his modern urban landscapes is his most powerful technique, as he explores the ‘inner space’ of his characters in his modern fables. If our obsession with modernity has desensitized us to our environment, can we really return to an earlier existence closer to nature? Or will we embrace technology and modern comforts, even at the expense of our emotional lives? It’s a valid question to raise, and certainly one that remains unanswered, even 40 years after the first publication of this strange and disturbing tale.

  • Mike
    2019-03-13 04:58

    Every time I finish a J.G. Ballard novel (Concrete Island is my fourth in the last year or so) I think two things: 1) hey, that was pretty terrific; 2) it's a shame I didn't read it ten years ago. Which is not to say I'm ashamed I've been so slow to hop on the Ballard train, or worried I've become terminally bourgy in my old age. The 29-year-old me thinks Ballard was a hell of a writer, but the 19-year-old me, the guy who couldn't stop listening to Kid A and Hex Enduction Hour on repeat, who was obsessively taking in screenings of Safe and Persona and Red Desert at his campus's theater, who was beginning to transfer his book-love from Paul Park's Celestis and John Crowley's The Deep to the novels of DeLillo...that guy would've worshiped Ballard, and found in him a real life companion. All this being said, if Peter Chung ever makes an animated movie of High-Rise or The Atrocity Exhibition, I'm fucking THERE.

  • Cody
    2019-03-08 02:57

    I gotta hand it to Ballard: there hasn't been one book I've read of his where, halfway through, I'm not ready to yank my fucking hair out only to have him pull it out of his ass. I honestly don't know how he does it. My theory: his storylines are so ridiculously preposterous (and escalating exponentially page-by-page) that by the time he goes to pull all the threads together, it just works out of some weird logic that you have to acknowledge is pretty darn original. Of course, that means that the absolute STUPIDEST shit imaginable occurs on pretty much every leaf, but it's fun to see him pull it off. And he has for, dunno, something like 5 books now. There's a lot of criticism I could offer of this or any of his work, but saying he wasn't his own man would never be a part of it. Also, opinions are like cell phones: radioactive and largely fucking annoying. This is my dumb Summer-self knowingly bowing before Entertainment rather than Enlightenment. Why? 'Cause sometimes the old girl upstairs needs a break. I believe there are worse crimes. Say, television.Or matricide.ORBecause you know you just wanna read a book that contains a passage of a cripple whipping out his schlong and pissing all over the face and body of a seated homeless, ex-acrobat halfwit dressed in a shiny dinner jacket and leotard who may or may not open his mouth. That's right, folks: the Full Golden Shower—no quarter given or requested. Hang out with your wang out/rock out with your cock out, JGB.

  • Nate D
    2019-03-01 08:23

    Traveling west from New York City, to Newark Airport or down the coast or inland and away, on a PATH train or New Jersey Transit or in a car on the highway, you first have to cross the Meadowlands. Crisscrossed by old and new transit options and little else, this stretch of marshes and landfill mounds has become an entirely liminal space, a place designed only to be passed through without stopping. Naturally, I've become fascinated with this empty overlooked space as a destination, a place to wander and spend time -- and if crossed, only on foot. This often leaves me in conflict with the general planning or lack thereof of the terrain, leaping crash barriers to dart across empty Garden State Parkway ramps, or ducking between concrete parapets beneath highway overpasses. Real solitude, even so close to NYC, can be found in the boggy overgrown triangles that these features cut out of the landscape. These are places I seek out.I do so by choice. But what if someone found themselves in one of the these lost zones against their will, victim of a motor accident, trapped by speeding traffic, barriers, and the semi-wild post-human landscape? These were places not meant to hold people, so why would anyone think to look for anyone in one? They're not made to be moved in without a car or train, so how easy would it be for the uninitiated to get out? This is Ballard's scenario, an ordinary man immobilized into one such Concrete Island cut out of the city by its mobility-infrastructure and unable to escape, a survival story ironically within a stones throw of all manner of normal modern life. It's oddly believable -- I've seen these spaces, spent time in them: they aren't meant for people. Couple this perfect conceptual terrain, so near to my own weird heart, with a generally quick and incisive narrative and crisp evocative description of the detritus of modernity, and this is up with Crash in Ballard's solid mid-70s not-really-sci-fi high point (as far as I can tell so far). Fantastic.

  • Ray
    2019-03-08 02:26

    Interesting concept. a man crashes his car and ends up in a concrete wasteland between motorways. His injuries from the crash are such that he cannot climb the embankment back up to the road.How does he survive?Over the period of a few days he manages to create a precarious life whilst all around him the relentless traffic flows by, oblivious to him and his fateThere is even a small community living on the island, comprising a paranoid prostitute and a former trapeze artist who has fallen on his head once too oftenWill they help him escape?Interesting dystopian read, if a little dated

  • Jonfaith
    2019-03-17 04:18

    A haunting tale, throbbing in its urban insecurity, matters of quotidian angst reach crisis. Each daytrader becomes a Crusoe. It is imperative that the reader control its breathing. Once the cast expanded, about half way through, the tension dropped considerably and a different game was unleashed, different and not near as compelling. This becomes a dialogue about conformity, productivity. Matters become controlled when steered by a bank account. I still enjoyed Concrete Island immensely.

  • Matt
    2019-03-17 05:00

    I understand that Ballard had designs at one point on adapting this into a children's book entitled "Robert Maitland and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."Don't quote me on that, though.This little book is the perfect complement to Ballard's more infamous novel, 'Crash'. The difference here is that we get a look at the not so fun side of the car crash compared to the zany, sexually fetishized thing that 'Crash' had going for it. I love Ballard's unique writing style. His voice is most often that of the unattached, bemused observer. The prose is very cold and clinical - a diamond edged scalpel that is beautiful in its brutality. It seems like most people are usually down on Ballard because he deals with uncomfortable themes, but I would think anyone who is a serious student of writing would want to give him a look because of his brilliant writing style.Robert Maitland is a successful architect with questionable priorities. He spends his time between a wife and a mistress, and seems to "have it all" in that straight, corporate world view of things. This all changes when he loses control of his car during rush hour and finds himself stranded on a no longer used concrete island off of the side of an overpass. Anyone who has ever stood beside a broken down car on the side of the road wondering why the hell no one will stop can certainly relate to this situation. When he realizes that no one sees him and help is not forthcoming we are treated to the minutiae of survival. These chapters, first published in 1973, would convince any judge in a court of law that Ballard is entitled to a percentage of McCarthy's big fat check for 'The Road' if Ballard was feeling litigious.As things are looking worse for Maitland, he is picked up by two denizens of the island, Proctor and Jane Sheppard. Proctor is an imposing, brain-damaged, former trapeze artist, while Jane is a bit of an unbalanced spitfire. Um...I think I may have dated Jane once or twice in my younger days, but luckily I was just wily enough to not drink the paraffin. This duo nurses Maitland back to health while imposing their wills upon him. As Maitland regains his strength, he turns the tables on them and imposes his own will. This turn of events draws the reader's sympathy away from Maitland, and I found myself caring more for the unfortunate Proctor. I ran into some issues with parsing the overall theme of this story. I dabbled with the idea that all things being equal, the upper-middle class guy is always going to outfox those on the margins of society. While there seems to be a bitter truth here, I don't like it and I don't think Ballard would do that to us. Whenever I find myself in this situation, Tami always seems to ride in to save the day. Her idea was that because Maitland's current life was in such moral shambles, he is forced into a rebirth and rapidly goes through the stages of a helpless infant, scheming child, rebellious teen, and finally independence through these two surrogate parents. I'm still rolling this idea around in my head, but I really like it. Thanks again, Tami.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-03-07 03:25

    Even if no man is an island in the modern world any man could be found living in a total psychological isolation like on a desert island. And anyone can feel lonely in a crowd…“In fact, the whole city was now asleep, part of an immense unconscious Europe, while he himself crawled about on a forgotten traffic island like the nightmare of this slumbering continent.”So Concrete Island can be read as a parable of alienation of an individual in the vast urbanized world.“He realized, above all, that the assumption he had made repeatedly since his arrival on the island – that sooner or later his crashed car would be noticed by a passing driver or policeman, and that rescue would come as inevitably as if he had crashed into the central reservation of a suburban dual carriageway – was completely false, part of that whole system of comfortable expectations he had carried with him. Given the peculiar topography of the island, its mantle of deep grass and coarse shrubbery, and the collection of ruined vehicles, there was no certainty that he would ever be noticed at all.”How many people are roaming lost in the human desert without any hope to be found?

  • Sean
    2019-02-23 05:02

    A man drives his Jaguar off an exit ramp at high speed and crashes onto an isolated piece of wasteland beneath the convergence of three highway overpasses. Though not catastrophically injured in the accident, he ends up doing further violence to his body while trying to signal for help on the road above. The situation gets worse before it ever approaches what anyone would describe as better. This is a compulsively readable novel with its short chapters and singular focus. Certainly one can choose to read it as an extension of, as the jacket flap notes, Ballard's 'metaphor of the automobile as the symbol of modern life.' On its surface, though, it's a story of a self-absorbed architect who is suddenly thrust into a situation far outside his element. Over time he learns to adapt, sometimes in cruel ways. Will he ever escape from the 'island' as he comes to call it? Does it even matter? There is a rich stratified history layered throughout this forgotten patch of land. And the mesmeric motion of the wild grasses overtaking it is hard to resist...

  • Kayıp Rıhtım
    2019-03-16 06:57

    Genç bir mimar olan Robert Maitland, Londra’daki ofisinden evine doğru yol alırken, aracının lastiğinin patlaması sonucu otoyolların kesiştiği, otlarla kaplı noktaya, trafik adası olarak adlandırılan yere düşer. Kurtulmak için her yolu deneyen Maitland, şehirdeki duyarsız insanlarla dolu bu yoldan kurtulmanın kolay olmadığını kısa süre sonra acı bir şekilde tecrübe edecektir.Beklenmedik bir anda tüm o modern imkanlarını yitirip, ilkel bir çağa dönen Maitland bir şekilde hayatta kalmak, işi ve ailesine geri dönmek zorundadır. Fakat ağır yaralı vücuduyla bu iş hiç de sanıldığı kadar kolay olmayacaktır. Ani bir şekilde toplumdan soyutlanan Maitland, bu “beton ada”da yalnızlığa mahkum olur. Düşünecek bolca zamanının olması, ona birçok şeyi sorgulatacaktır. Tüm o gelip geçen araçlar ve ışıkları yanıp sönen gökdelenlerin içerisinde aslında dünyanın en vahşi canlıları yaşamaktadır: insanlar…Günümüz dünyasındaki robotlaşan insanlara çok sert tokatlar atıyor Ballard bu eserinde. Çevirdiğimiz her sayfayla birlikte biraz daha gözlerimizin önüne seriliyor rezil hayatlarımız. Biraz daha ortaya dökülüyor kirli çamaşırlarımız. Ballard acımıyor bizlere, yerden yere vuruyor. Hemen hemen tüm eserlerinde insanın dönüşümünü odak noktasına oturtan, uzayı değil, insanları en ince ayrıntısına dek irdeleyen yazardan şaşırtmayan, güçlü bir eser.- Bahri Doğukan ŞAHİNİncelemenin tamamı için:

  • Benoit Lelièvre
    2019-03-02 07:03

    It was great by any Ballardian standards, but I feel that the allegory overtook the narrative and the characters a little bit compared to HIGH RISE. CONCRETE ISLAND is more the living embodiment of an idea than an actual novel. Nothing in it can be taken at face value. Because if you do, it can get a little boring. The best way I can describe CONCRETE ISLAND is ROBINSON CRUSOE meets LOST. The island where Robert Maitland has fallen on has "claimed" him for a reason he's not ready to face yet. So, the island is not really the island. The oncoming traffic is not really traffic. What the hell is going on here? My point, exactly. This is stimulating, but nowhere near as multidimensional at HIGH RISE is. And a little exhausting. I liked it a lot, but it's something for Ballard fans such as myself only.

  • Manda
    2019-02-24 00:59

    Being stranded and forgotten about (a modern treasure island) in today's London is surely not possible with CCTV and mobile phones. When this was published though perhaps what happens was an actual possibility.Regardless, I enjoyed this book, well written and brilliantly presented. Characters plausible and overall, a great read.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-03-16 06:02

    This is a slightly terrifying book. I wasn't sure how the author was going to pull off the plausibility of it all. Robert Maitland, architect, Londoner, crashes his car into an embankment in London, an island, and histrionics of various degrees ensue. What seems to be a predicament that can be easily fixed turns out to be not only much harder to remedy but a predicament that veers into hellacious. The thing is, with all of this, he's not alone. I can't say more.I know there's a lesson in here and I suspect I didn't catch it because I was too busy being totally freaked out.

  • StevenGodin
    2019-03-15 02:11

    The formula for this is pretty straightforward, goes something like this,Robinson Crusoe - the ocean and Robinson himself + an arrogant British businessman, a load of tarmac and a couple of weirdos = Concrete Island...oh hang on, better just add a sprinkling of dystopia to the mix, there that's about right.

  • Bert
    2019-02-23 05:26

    Ballard in the Seventies was a true artist. I love how obsessive these novels are, each one picking apart the cold voidyness of cars, concrete, high-rises but also maybe saying these things are just reflections of our own unnatural selves (in a Ballardian twist my copy has the wrong blurb on the back so the fact that nothing happened as described just confused my dough-brain even more than usual).

  • piperitapitta
    2019-03-19 03:05

    Forse qualcosa anticipo, da leggere con circospezione!Robert Maitland è un architetto londinese che, lanciato al volante della sua Jaguar mentre torna a casa, è vittima di un incidente stradale, a seguito del quale si trova ad essere prigioniero di un'isola spartitraffico, sottostante i piloni di cemento, all'incrocio tra tre autostrade.L'isola di cemento è un luogo coperto da vegetazione selvatica, pneumatici e auto abbandonate e dove c'è persino un vecchio cinema in disuso: insomma, è terra di nessuno.Robert Maitland stesso non è atteso da nessuno: quando non è a casa con la moglie questa sa che è dall'amante e viceversa, quando non è al lavoro la segretaria sa che probabilmente si è recato all'improvviso da qualche cliente.Nessuno lo cerca.Già dalle prime pagine la sensazione è strana: il mio primo pensiero, purtroppo condizionata dai tempi saturi di tecnologia che viviamo, è stato: ma che non ce l'ha un cellulare?Ma dopo aver visto che il romanzo è del 1974, ho rinunciato ad ogni velleità razionalista e mi sono abbandonata alla storia trovandomi anch'io prigioniera dell'isola con Maitland.L'atmosfera è claustrofobica, nonostate tutta la vicenda si svolga all'aperto, perché Maitland non è vittima solamente del luogo ma anche della propria vita e dei propri pensieri.Il dramma è soprattutto interiore perché più il tempo passa e più il protagonista comincia a mettere in discussione l'esistenza condotta fino a quel momento, sembrando avviarsi a una imminente redenzione e a una fuga dall'isola di cemento rinnovato nello spirito.Ma il novello Robinson Crusoe non ha ancora fatto i conti con gli indigeni dell'isola, non ha ancora incontrato i suoi Venerdì, che si materializzeranno all'improvviso nelle figure di Proctor e Jane: un ex acrobata del circo e una ragazza di strada e che gli faranno scoprire un altro se stesso.Da cosa fugge Maitlan, ed è proprio sicuro di voler fuggire dai suoi fantasmi?Mi è piaciuto?Sì e no. Mi è piaciuto lo spunto narrativo e mi è piaciuta la scrittura di Ballard, dai suoi romanzi sono stati realizzati due capolavori cinematografici come L'impero del sole di Steven Spielberg e Crash di Paul Haggis [nel frattempo mi si è fatto notare che è un altro il Crash di Ballard], ma poi mi è sembrato si perdesse un po' per strada rischiando di diventare inconcludente e di tralasciare tutti quei simboli e quei messaggi di speranza disseminati nella prima parte della storia.Insomma le mie tre stelline non sono proprio piene, oscillano continuamente verso il basso :-)Legigamo VI | gruppo di lettura all'interno del gruppo Maddecheaoh!!!

  • Lukasz
    2019-03-08 06:13

    I have been putting off reading my first Ballard for just too long to feel genuinely disappointed. It's just that I have grown used to thinking of Ballard as potentially my favourite author, one whose brutalist anti-fantasies would forever define my personal ideal for architectural aesthetics conveyed in writing. Now that I'm somewhat underwhelemed by his heavy-handed post-existentialist allegorism (did i rly just type that) and poor handling of anything involving more than one character (or one object, preferably gleaming, burning or exploding at that)- whether it be an improbable dialogue or a barely insightful introspection- even now I think of Ballard as more of a 'could have been my favourite author ever' than anything else. it must be his originality and boldness that make people so forgiving of his mediocrity. I'm quite curious about his other novels, such as 'High-rise' and 'Crystal World'. soo, it's a 'let's be friends' for now, even though I do wish it could have been something more than that.

  • F.R.
    2019-03-19 01:08

    This is a book I should have read earlier. This is a book I’ve had in the back of my mind to read for a very long time now, and it shames me a little that I’ve only just got around to it. If you think about it, the notion of a man who gets stuck on a traffic island, a patch of wasteland at the intersection of the new motorway network, is something which could also have been done by the contemporaneous ‘Monty Python's Flying Circus’. (Imagine Michael Palin's 'It's' man staring forlornly at the traffic). But Ballard – from that period in the early seventies when he was at his visionary best – takes the situation entirely seriously, thinking logically and sensibly about how this would happen and what the poor castaway would have to do to survive and try to ensure his rescue.Although if it was written today the author would have to explain what happened to the lead character's mobile phone, this still feels a fresh and contemporary novel. Reading it at this precise moment, where there's a lot of talk of the top 1% who take all the money and everybody else who has to pay for it (a debate which has even subsumed the new Batman film), then this book feels weirdly tapped into the mood. Our lead protagonist crashes his jaguar, and those he meets see him as a slick capitalist, an exploiter and try to give him a little comeuppance. So far, so Guardian reader’s wet dream – but of course, this being Ballard, things never follow a predictable path'Concrete Island' is a genuinely far reaching and yet small and recognisable novel. And it stands at the apex of Ballard's homespun science fiction.

  • Guy Portman
    2019-03-06 02:26

    35-year-old architect Robert Maitland is driving along the orbital road, Westway, in London, when he loses control of his Jaguar, ploughs through the barriers and plummets onto an underpass. Having injured his leg in the crash, our protagonist, unable to make it back to road, finds himself stranded on this concrete island. Initially he assumes that the crash must have been noticed and that the authorities will soon rescue him. When this does not happen he attempts to catch the attention of passers-by, but this is to no avail. A febrile Maitland faces physical torment, including acute hunger, but he also has periods of psychological contentment. Maitland is not alone in this underworld. There are two residents — a capricious socialist called Jane and an ungainly simpleton by the name of Proctor.There are obvious parallels between Concrete Island and Robinson Crusoe. Rife with similes, this is an allegorical story about isolation, in which the underpass can be viewed as a metaphor for the forgotten, invisible people on the lowest strata of the capitalist social order. How society functions is a recurring theme in Ballard’s writing.Whilst this reader was intrigued by the premise of this cautionary and concise tale, there were occasions when he struggled with the awkward, analytical prose, such as the mechanical-minded author’s very specific description of car components.

  • Pablo Bueno
    2019-02-25 08:05

    La verdad es que no he disfrutado tanto como esperaba este libro. Es mi primer Ballard y, pese a que la calidad del autor está fuera de toda duda, mi impresión, que por lo que he visto comparte más de uno, es que no se trata de una de sus mejores obras. El libro tiene una serie de virtudes que son muy meritorias, destacando la propia escritura y arquitectura del mismo: - El planteamiento de partida resulta tan rocambolesco que atrae muchísimo. - Ballard tiene una facilidad sorprendente para gestionar estados de ánimos y razonamientos cambiantes en el protagonista sin que la credibilidad se resienta lo más mínimo.- Aunque la lectura no se hace especialmente ágil o adictiva, cuando uno lo deja está deseando retomarlo para saber qué demonios pasa con Maitland.- La propia evolución y reflexiones del protagonista son, en algunos puntos, notables.- El desenlace genera bastante tensión y tiene un cierto grado de sorpresa.Mi conclusión: no está mal, sobre todo porque me ha abierto el apetito para meterme con los relatos o alguna de sus novelas mejor consideradas.

  • Bandit
    2019-03-18 09:17

    I really thought I'd like this more. Both the author and the book came highly recommended by reliable sources. Yet as I'm processing the strange brief reading experience this has been, I have to say that I don't think I liked it very much. It was conceptually interesting and I appreciated it and what it was trying to say, as a life long city dweller I find urban isolation to be a fascinating subject, but the lack of likable or compelling characters, the fact that this seemed like a short story or a novella at most dragged out into a novel and the overall pervasive peculiarity of it just failed to emotionally engage. Definitely an original, though difficult and not particularly enjoyable read. But certainly a quick one, just a couple of hours.

  • Ari
    2019-03-03 05:17

    Short, direct novel on the isolation of man surrounded by stone and metal. Sometimes being alone and without troubles is the best choice. A robinson crusoe for the modern man.

  • berthamason
    2019-03-23 03:22

    Unusual and intriguing little book with a predictable, yet fitting, ending.

  • Joe
    2019-03-17 06:14

    Ballard does the introduction to the book himself and talks about Robinson Crusoe and how it makes you think of humanity and the way we interact; or fail to interact as the case may be.The premise sounds simple and it is; a guy crashes his car into a concrete divide area near a motorway and is unable to escape due to the layout and circumstances. I made the presumption of it being focused entirely on isolation and the effects that has on the human psyche. It does indeed do that but it does so much more. Due to the short book length and the focus of the book being on the exploration of thoughts given I won't say more other than I'm very glad I read this.A remarkable piece of writing which makes me want to read more Ballard even sooner than planned.

  • Abby
    2019-03-23 01:05

    This book was strange. And weird. Here is my review:The premise: A+! Way awesome. A guy crashes off of the freeway and gets stranded on an island between the roads. (Or sort of below them. To be honest, I never could figure out exactly how it was set up. It was an island, but big. And there were other wrecked cars, and old ruins of buildings from before the freeway was built. And he was chained in on one side by a fence, and had to climb a steep embankment on the other. I think.) He tries to escape, but can't. Cars don't stop because it's rush hour on the freeway. Then people think he's just a homeless guy and won't stop for him. Then he tries to run across the freeway and falls victim to a hit and run, which shove him BACK onto the island, no longer able to climb to freedom due to injuries. And he stays there, for days and days and days, surviving off fast food people toss from their cars. Then he finds out other people are on the island, too. Oooh, spooky.Actual book: D-. Not my type of book. Sounded great, but was strange strange strange. I wouldn't really suggest it for anyone, just because it was weird and hard to follow.But on the awesome side, it did make me start thinking of personal survival tactics for if I ever become stranded/homeless/jobless/shelterless. I used to think of these things all the time as a kid. Here are my survival tactics (albeit not for a "concrete island", but survival nonetheless):I would sleep on the street near a wedding reception center and sneak in, pretending to know either the bride or groom, depending on who I met. Seriously, think of the free food each night! And cake! Every night I would have cake. I would be the chubbiest homeless girl around.I would shower/bathe in public bathroom restroom sinks each morning, before anyone got there. (I'd probably barricade the door first, too.) I once read about a wealthy self made entrepreneur couple who moved here from another country - probably a foreign one, I forget which. Anyways, before they made it big they slept in the back room of the store where they worked, and got up really early to bathe/shave/brush teeth using sink water in the public restrooms. No one guessed. I could do that, too.I'd live at the airport. It never closes. I could return the carts for $1 a piece and live like a queen! I'd beg on the streets for cash. You have no idea how good I actually am at this. Once, when I was a freshman at BYU, I stood on the corner when people were arriving at the BYU/U of U football game and asked for donations for a Sub for Santa thing my class was doing. I got so much money! It was like, $150. The next best TEAM (of four people!) got like $115 cmobined. Did I win a cash prize or anything, though? Nope. I did get to take a bow in class, though. So anyways, begging for money and me are like the dream team. I would go into restaurants and order a big meal. Then I would pretend I had to use the bathroom and sneak out. THEN, someday when I was rich, I would come and find all the waiters/waitresses that I had jipped out of a tip and give them a million dollars or buy them a yacht. I would hang out behind restaurants and cafeterias and wait for them to dump their food at night. Once I worked at Taco Bell at closing, and we'd throw out SO much food at night it was ridiculous. I would wait for it. Another survival tactic would be to actually get a job closing up at Taco Bell, and then I could take the food without it going in the trash first. However, that would make me no longer "jobless" and make it not fit into this category of survival tactics.I'd probably borrow books from the library, even though I wouldn't have a library card (since I have no address). I would return them. I was shocked and horrified once when my friend told me her dad does that all the time to libraries that he doesn't want to pay $70 to get a non-resident library card for. He was Mormon and everything, I mean! But as a homeless person, I think it sounds like a great idea. Not to survive, but because I like to read.Finally, I could live for weeks off of free samples at Sam's Club and Costco. You don't actually have to be a member to go in, just to buy stuff at their listed prices. This membership thing would not affect me, since I would never buy anything. Just free samples!The end.PS. This is a long review. That's because I had multiple ways to take this review and couldn't pick which one I wanted. Here is my serious review:This book made me think of it as a metaphor for depression. I mean, the guy is there, suffering and in pain, starving slowly to death, while the world whizzes by unnoticing. Probably a million people probably drove within feet of him, including his wife once, but never saw him there. I think it's a perfect way to describe depression, where you are suffering and dying inside, but people (even those closest to you) may completely miss it. Never having really been depressed (unless you count when Derek Peterson asked out Becky Thurgood instead of me in 6th grade), I may not be the best to decide it's a comparison. But it seems logical to me. I wonder if the author thought about that while he was writing the book or not.

  • Shel
    2019-03-12 01:22

    Pairs well with: William Golding's Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin, an excellent shipwrecked story with similar themes; the movie 127 Hours which also explores the thin line between the comfort and security individuals take for granted within a well-equipped society and how weak and vulnerable a person may rapidly become in isolationWriters read this for: An example of in media res: The story begins when Robert Maitland's car crashes over a concrete barrier and evolves as Maitland struggles to find his way off the island. He comes to accept his isolation (no one will come to his rescue — he must make his own way). There's a clear character arc: from being afraid he'll be stranded on the island forever and quixotically struggling to free himself to realizing that he will eventually get off the island and becoming more peaceful, but also passive, about his fate.Rules are made to be broken: The character of Maitland also exists within a concrete island. Very little information is given about who he was before being stranded on the island and how he feels about his loss of his former life — he deals with the situation by drinking himself into a stupor and acting out in a strange malaise. There are few other characters except for Maitland and the occasional passerby on the freeway until page 79 when two other enigmatic characters are introduced.Quote:"These days we don't notice other people's selfishness until we are on the receiving end ourselves."

  • Perry Whitford
    2019-03-11 09:25

    On his way home to his wife and child after three days away at work and three nights with his mistress, Robert Maitland is speeding when his Jaguar blows a tire and crashes off the motorway down a steep embankment into a deserted triangle of wasteland.Not badly injured initially, Maitland's immediate steps to extricate himself from the 'island', where he is never more than thirty foot away from civilization, result in a worsening of his situation, a mangled hip and a disorienting fever. He tries various methods to alert passing drivers to his predicament, from waving a makeshift crutch to setting fire to his battered Jaguar, but to no effect. Inconceivable as it appears he becomes stranded from society, though right in its heart.He soon discovers that two other outcasts inhabit the island, a strong, mentally retarded man and an angry, neurotic woman. Together they form 'part of the conspiracy of the grotesque which had kept him marooned on the island'. In his fevered state Maitland thought 'he had almost willfully devised the crash, perhaps as some bizarre kind of rationalization' of his adulterer's guilt. Whether true or not, he sets himself the task of dominating both the island and his two damaged companions.Concrete Island is an interesting enough urbane nightmare from Ballard, though hardly an outstanding novel by his usual standards. However, it is a great advertisement for the invention of the mobile phone.

  • Andrew
    2019-02-23 05:12

    When Robert Maitland comes off the road in his Jaguar he is shocked but uninjured. He is instantly confident that he will be rescued in no time. However his escape from the triangle of waste ground, surrounded on all sides by motorway, is much more elusive than he could ever have imagined. Ballard writes exhilarating prose telling the story of how Maitland quickly descends into madness, as he finds himself totally isolated from the world he knows. I think the key of this book lies in the repetition within the narrative, reoccurring thoughts and multiple thwarted attempts to escape carry you through the multi-layered story. I loved this book. Even though it was written four decades ago, it’s theme of intense isolation in the middle of a vibrant metropolis still remains brutally relevant to contemporary Britain. Arguably, if anyone were to attempt an unnecessary twenty first century rewrite, the ubiquitous nature of mobile communication would prove a slight stumbling block to the story-telling. However, I think the idea that we all carry on following our own well-trodden path, without noticing those around us, works well for a digital-age reading. Concrete Island explores ideas of social status and how we all dismiss the underclass, not treating them with the basic human compassion that we extend to most in our lives. It is how quickly Maitland slips out of view and out of the comforting hammock of society, which is so terrifyingly enthralling.