Re-entry Into the Heart of Darkness: J. G. Ballard’s Sci-Fi Retelling of Conrad’s Novella


British science fiction writer J. G. Ballard seemed to have been under the strong influence of Joseph Conrad’s novella set in Africa, Heart of Darkness (1899), in the early1960s, even though he intentionally blurred when he had first read it and how much he had owed his literary inspiration to it. One of the crucial texts proving Conrad’s influence on Ballard is the latter’s 1963 short story entitled “A Question of Re-entry.” In this story set in the Amazon Rainforest, as its title indicates, Ballard seeks to “re-enter” Heart of Darkness by borrowing its framework and updates Conrad’s legacies from postcolonial and planetary perspectives. Here, UN Investigator Connolly is on the patrol launch with Captain Pereira, an officer of the Native Protection Missions in Brazil, searching for the lost astronaut, Colonel Spender, who went missing with his spacecraft after his successful flight to the Moon five years ago. Then, during his investigation in the jungle, Connolly meets Ryker, a Kurtzean character from Europe who rules the native tribe by deceiving them with the power of science and technology. Although critics have already regarded this story as Ballard’s Sci-fi parody of Heart of Darkness, they never deeply discuss his exploration of Conradian topics, from the depravity of Western civilization to the oppression of Indigenous people living in the Global South. In this sense, the current paper examines the political aspect of Ballard’s science fiction by analyzing how he reinterprets Conrad’s masterpiece in his own work.

Author Information
Yutaka Okuhata, Japan Women’s University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: IICAH2024
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

This paper is part of the IICAH2024 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Okuhata Y. (2024) Re-entry Into the Heart of Darkness: J. G. Ballard’s Sci-Fi Retelling of Conrad’s Novella ISSN: 2432-4604 – The IAFOR International Conference on Arts & Humanities – Hawaii 2024 Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon