For sale: futurologist JG Ballard's old home. In need of modernisation
JG Ballard's rather drab semi-detached home in Shepperton is inextricably linked with the life of one of post-war fiction's greatest talents. Many of the country's best writers, often Ballard's disciples, visited the author during the 49 years that he lived in this sleepy suburb, where he crafted the dystopian thrillers Crash and Cocaine Nights.
Now, Mr Ballard's former partner, Claire Walsh, has told friends the house is finally on the property market following the writer's death in 2009. Estate agent Haart is carrying an advertisement for the property, a "spacious three-bedroom semi-detached house situated just moments from Shepperton High Street" which is "in need of refurbishment". Ballard did little work on it, according to his neighbours. The asking price for this piece of literary history is just under £320,000.
Such a modest sum does not do justice to the life which played out behind its clipped privet hedge. Mr Ballard moved to Old Charlton Road, Shepperton, in 1960, and wrote his first novel, The Wind From Nowhere, two years later, before becoming a full-time writer. His wife died in 1964, leaving him to raise his three children, James, Fay and Bea, on his own.
In the house, he would write longhand between 10am and 1pm in his sitting room, producing around 1,000 words a day. He produced 18 novels in his career. In his later years, visitors to Mr Ballard's house often remarked on how different it was to the apocalyptic scenes seen in his books. In a piece on Ballard in the The Atlantic in December 2009, Christopher Hitchens described Shepperton as "almost laughably tranquil".
Of meeting Ballard at his home, Martin Amis wrote in 2009: "He told me that 'Crash freaks', from, say, the Sorbonne, would visit expecting to find a miasma of lysergic-acid and child abuse. In fact, what they found was a robustly rounded and amazingly cheerful suburbanite."
Also in 2009, the writer Iain Sinclair made a "pilgrimage" to the house. He described a "silver Ford Granada tilted at a drunken angle, like a sinking cabin-cruiser, in the vestigial driveway". Many of the features Sinclair describes can be seen in Haart's advertisement: "a napkin of lawn... the Crittall window of the front room".
There is no "for sale" sign outside the house, which a neighbour said had been empty since Mr Ballard's death. Asked whether she felt the property would attract more interest because of its famous occupant, the neighbour rather pessimistically replied: "I doubt many people will know who he is."
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