British author J.G. Ballard dies at 78

'Empire of the Sun,' 'Crash' among works adapted to film

British author J.G. Ballard, whose vivid portrayal of his childhood imprisonment in wartime Shanghai was adapted into a hit Hollywood film, died Sunday, his agent said. He was 78.

Ballard, who had been suffering from prostate cancer, died at his home in Shepperton by the River Thames in west London, his agent Margaret Hanbury said in a statement.

"J.G. Ballard has been a giant on the world literary scene for more than 50 years," she said. "His acute and visionary observation of contemporary life was distilled into a number of brilliant, powerful novels which have been published all over the world."

He was best known for "Empire of the Sun," a novel based on his privileged childhood with his expatriate parents in China and their subsequent internment in a prison camp after the Japanese invasion during World War II.

Director Steven Spielberg adapted the book for the big screen and it was nominated for six Oscars. Ballard would later write in his memoirs that his early, often brutal, experiences shaped all his later work.

"In many ways my entire fiction is the dissection of a deep pathology that I had witnessed in Shanghai and later in the postwar world," he wrote.

In a prolific career spanning more than half a century, he wrote many dystopian science fiction novels, including "The Drowned World" and "Cocaine Nights."

One of his most controversial works was "Crash," a novel about people who are sexually aroused by car accidents. It was later turned into a film directed by David Cronenberg.
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