Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)


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Paul Murray

On the way, he loses control and his car strikes the kerb of the central reservation, which makes him have an orgasm. James takes Helen to a stock-car race in Northolt, where they meet Vaughan and his friend Seagrave, a former racing driver. During the re-enactment of an accident, Seagrave is slightly wounded and has to be taken to hospital. Vaughan has been around James for a while, but it is the first time they get to know each other. James is aware that the entire course of their relationship is fixed at that moment.

Gabrielle was also the victim of a car-crash, and Vaughan has an elaborate photographic dossier on her impressive injuries. He also has pictures of James, and hundreds of photographs of car-crashes and wounds. As Ballard watches all these photos, he realizes that his relationships with Helen, Catherine and his secretary are mediated by the automobile and the technological landscape. Conscious of a new perverse sexual logic, Ballard feels that an act of sodomy with Vaughan would be devoid of erotic dimension, which makes this act possible.

As to Catherine, her sexual fantasies begin to involve Vaughan. She teases James and asks him crudely if he would like to have sex with Vaughan.


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As Vaughan knows that Elizabeth Taylor is to play in a Ford commercial, he insists on seeing her. In vain. Later, in Shepperton studios, Seagrave, disguised as an actress, is filmed for a crash scene. Then they go to the test sites of the Road Research Laboratory, to watch accident simulations with mannequins.

Vaughan gives his fellows a questionnaire which invites them to imagine a car-crash with a celebrity. Vaughan and Ballard take two prostitues aboard their car. While Ballard drives, Vaughan has sex with one of the prostitutes, whom he manipulates as a doll, her body parts considered as unusual laboratory equipment. Now, fully aware of the marriage of sex and technology, James feels that he can almost control their sexual act by the way he drives the car. Later on, with Catherine, they go to an accident site.

As usual, Vaughan takes photographs. Driving around the airport, they stop at a car wash, where Vaughan has sex with Catherine.

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Once more, James plays the role of voyeur, considering this sexual act as divorced from all feeling. Ballard realizes that he wants to be closer to Vaughan, feeling a true affection for him, a blend of jealousy, love and pride. Seagrave, whose behaviour has been more and more erratic lately, dies in a car-crash, disguised as Liz Taylor.

Vaughan is upset by the news, not because his partner is dead, but because the stuntman has stolen the death he had reserved for himself. Depressed, Vaughan gets more violent and starts inflicting wounds on himself. He is even indifferent to his success in converting Ballard as a disciple.

Vaughan urges Ballard to crash the car. James is tempted to obey, but finally parks the car near the motorway. For him, this act is paradoxically devoid of sexuality. Once it is over, Ballard is overcome by a profound sense of calm. Some time later, Vaughan tries to run over Ballard, and kill him in a display of casual love. Attracted to the logic and beauty of his death, many spectators move towards the crash scene, resembling a huge stage. After, Catherine and James go to the police pound. Walking among the cars, they notice Helen and Gabrielle, now together, ever more perverse.

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With his semen, James defines for the last time the contours of Vaughan on the seats, a last tribute as he is already preparing his own car-crash. The characters of Crash have their own peculiar canons of beauty.

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When Vaughan makes love to Catherine, he is brutal. As a result, she has weals and bruises on her face. Car-crashes provoke new behaviours in Crash which, even if they can be shocking to the reader, are devoid of all notions of good and evil or morality. With different male or female partners, the protagonists have a series of sexual experiences involving technology and violence, where watching is almost as important as acting. Ballard the writer usually refers to a new psychopathology, expressed in new forms of violence and sexuality made possible by a new equation between the car and the human body.

If the characters go to extremes in terms of perversity, their exploratory acts are always performed without feeling and eroticism, a symptom of what Ballard calls the "death of affect" The Atrocity Exhibition , Body transformations are accidental in Crash. In hospital, technology is used to heal the wounded bodies, but these are not as easy to repair as cars. Bodies are scarred, amputated, twisted or equipped with metallic adjuncts.

The protagonists have a fascination for the bodies altered by car-crashes, especially Vaughan, who has a morbid collection of photographs of mutilated bodies. These body transformations go with a mental transformation akin to psychopathology, one of whose symptoms is that wounds and scars become new erotic zones.

After the Crash

Once it is over, Ballard is overcome by a profound sense of calm. Some time later, Vaughan tries to run over Ballard, and kill him in a display of casual love. Attracted to the logic and beauty of his death, many spectators move towards the crash scene, resembling a huge stage. After, Catherine and James go to the police pound. Walking among the cars, they notice Helen and Gabrielle, now together, ever more perverse. With his semen, James defines for the last time the contours of Vaughan on the seats, a last tribute as he is already preparing his own car-crash. The characters of Crash have their own peculiar canons of beauty.

When Vaughan makes love to Catherine, he is brutal. As a result, she has weals and bruises on her face. Car-crashes provoke new behaviours in Crash which, even if they can be shocking to the reader, are devoid of all notions of good and evil or morality.

With different male or female partners, the protagonists have a series of sexual experiences involving technology and violence, where watching is almost as important as acting.


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Ballard the writer usually refers to a new psychopathology, expressed in new forms of violence and sexuality made possible by a new equation between the car and the human body. If the characters go to extremes in terms of perversity, their exploratory acts are always performed without feeling and eroticism, a symptom of what Ballard calls the "death of affect" The Atrocity Exhibition , Body transformations are accidental in Crash.

In hospital, technology is used to heal the wounded bodies, but these are not as easy to repair as cars. Bodies are scarred, amputated, twisted or equipped with metallic adjuncts. The protagonists have a fascination for the bodies altered by car-crashes, especially Vaughan, who has a morbid collection of photographs of mutilated bodies.

These body transformations go with a mental transformation akin to psychopathology, one of whose symptoms is that wounds and scars become new erotic zones. The most striking image is that of Vaughan and Catherine who, in their car, look like two semi-metallic human beings making love in a chromium bower. Just as the car-crash and the wounds that result from it, death is seen with a new outlook in Crash and is given a new value. Death is no longer a fearsome end, as it can be turned into an artistic media event.

Vaughan is obsessed with celebrities Marilyn Monroe, J. Kennedy, James Dean whose premature deaths helped them reach immortality as cultural icons. But no matter how memorable, his death would be just one in a million, in the worlwide massacre called "autogeddon". In a peculiar symbolic way, death is also connected to resurrection, as the characters celebrate the rebirth of the dead through their wounds and their sex acts, the union of body sores and fluids.

Crash largely dispenses with gender categories. Homosexuality is referred to a few times, as if to remind the reader of the traditional categories. Due to the non-erotic dimension of sexuality — which is more concerned with experiment than with pleasure, let alone love — and the assimilation of the human body to metal body of the car, gender tends to be an irrelevant concept.

Bodies mingle, try new combinations, explore new zones and apertures, whatever the sex of their owners. The body is as much watched as it is touched, and the more twisted it is, the more mesmerizing it is. The human body is also characterized by its liquids and secretions — whether natural or caused by lesions — to which the narrator pays particular attention: semen, blood, urine, pus, mucosa, and genital fluids.

Although the descriptions are supposedly clinical or non-sexual, this insistance tends to be morbid and pathological. Outer physical space can be delimited by two main points: the private sphere, which is represented by the car, and the social sphere, which is associated with anonymous places. The car can become a coffin, but it is above all the space where, and the instrument thanks to which, the characters discover new possibilities of behaviour, sex, and relationships. Nevertheless, as he often said, he was dissatisfied with the preoccupations of traditional SF: outer space and the far future.

He then developed his own theory of inner space — a "psychological domain where the inner world of the mind and the outer world of reality meet and fuse" Vale — in novels such as The Drowned World or The Drought , whose inspiration owes much to Surrealist painting. Yet, hardly anyone could imagine the shift in his artistic and literary choices of the next decade. Published in , The Atrocity Exhibition is an experimental collection of short fictions which explore the meaning of violent images in Western society.

If the book is known for its in famous story titles such as "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan" , it is more interesting to note that it contains the seeds of Crash , with a story such as "Crash! Crash was written in a state of what Ballard described as "willed madness", admitting in an interview with Graeme Revell that it was to some extent a psychopathic act, meaning "the deliberate immersion of [my] imagination in all sorts of destructive impulses" Vale.

Nevertheless, it was well planned and documented. Ballard, who studied medicine, used Crash Injuries , a medical textbook, to provide his novel with the required scientific material. With time, the novel has achieved cult status. It has been widely discussed by academics, among them Roger Luckurst and Andrzej Gasiorek, who wrote monographs on Ballard. Ballard wrote an introduction for the French edition published in , in which he presents Crash as "a cataclysmic novel of the present day", "an extreme metaphor for an extreme situation", and "the first pornographic novel based on technology" reprinted in Vale.

It is a cataclysmic novel as it harbingers "the end of the world by the automobile". In his essay "Autopia or Autogeddon? For him, the pandemic has already started, and Crash can be read as a cautionary tale. The novel also explores the relationship of man with his new landscape. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there.

In the past we have always assumed that the external world around us represented reality, however confusing or uncertain, and that the inner world of our minds, its dreams, hopes, ambitions, represented the realm of fantasy and the imagination. These roles, too, it seems to me, have been reversed. The most prudent and effective method of dealing with the world around us is to assume that it is a complete fiction — conversely, the one node of reality left to us is inside our own heads.

Given these transformations, what is the main task facing the writer? Can he, any longer, make use of the techniques and perspectives of the traditional 19th century novel, with its linear narrative, its measured chronology, its consular characters grandly inhabiting domains within an ample time and space? Is his subject matter the sources of character and personality sunk deep in the past, the unhurried inspection of roots, the examination of the most subtle nuances of social behaviour and personal relationships? Has the writer still the moral authority to invent a self sufficient and self-enclosed world, to preside over his characters like an examiner, knowing all the questions in advance?

Can he leave out anything he prefers not to understand, including his own motives, prejudices and psychopathologies? I feel that, in a sense, the writer knows nothing any longer. He has no moral stance. He offers the reader the contents of his own head, he offers a set of options and imaginative alternatives. His role is that of the scientist, whether on safari or in his laboratory, faced with a completely unknown terrain or subject. All he can do is to devise hypothesis and test them against the facts.

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If I am right, and what I have done over the past years is to rediscover the present for myself, Crash! Do we see, in the car crash, a sinister portent of a nightmare marriage between sex and technology? Will modern technology provide us with a hitherto undreamed-of means for tapping our own psychopathologies? Is this harnessing of our innate perversity conceivably of benefit to us? Is there some deviant logic unfolding more powerful that that of reason?

Throughout Crash! As such the novel has a political role quite apart from its sexual content, but I would like still to think that Crash! In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other in the most urgent and ruthless way.

Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition) Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)
Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition) Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)
Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition) Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)
Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition) Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)
Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition) Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)
Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition) Crash test (Fiction) (French Edition)

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