THE "ATROCITY EXHIBITION" DISCUSSIONS (from the JGB list at Yahoo Groups)

INTERLUDE ... UNDERGROUND NUCLEAR BUNKERS


[MH 23 November 2007]

Here's another variation in the text of AE - David should like this one!

In the second paragraph of "The Atrocity Exhibition", there's a list of seven items. In the Flamingo (1993) edition it reads: "(1) Spectro-heliogram of the sun; (2) Front elevation of balcony units, Hilton Hotel, London; (3) Transverse section through a pre-Cambrian trilobite; (4) 'Chronograms,' by E. J. Marey; (5) Photograph taken at noon, August 7th, 1945, of the sand-sea, Qattara Depression, Egypt; (6) Reproduction of Max Ernst's 'Garden Airplane Traps'; (7) Fusing sequences for 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Boy', Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-Bombs."

But the original list (in New Worlds #166) read: "(1) Contour map of underground bunkers, RSG 4, Berkshire; (2) Front elevation of balcony units, Hilton Hotel, London ; (3) Pyramidal Cell cross-section, Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz ; (4) "Chronograms", by E. J. Marey ; (5) Photograph taken at noon, August 7, 1945, of the sand-sea, Qattara Depression ; (6) Reproduction of Salvador Dali's "The Great Masturbator"; (7) Fusing sequences for "Big Boy" and "Fat Boy", Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs."

The Cape edition is the same as the current version except for a couple of minor differences. But the Doubleday edition matches *the original version*, except that 'Big Boy' is changed to 'Little Boy'.

However, the names of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs were actually 'Little Boy' and 'Fat MAN'. Oops!

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[DP: 23 November 2007]

MH writes: Here's another variation in the text of AE - David should like this one!

Yes, that's fascinating. Thanks.

Funnily enough, I remember noticing the "Big Boy" to "Little Boy" change at some point in the past. I recall noting that JGB had made a mistake there. After all, Brian Aldiss had a story called "Another Little Boy" -- referring to the Hiroshima A-bomb -- in that very issue of New Worlds (#166, September 1966)!

But I don't remember noticing the other changes -- or, if I did, I had forgotten about them. Leaving aside the above correction (or semi-correction), from the original NW version of the text that you give, the "lost" lines are:

1) Contour map of underground bunkers, RSG 4, Berkshire;

(3) Pyramidal Cell cross-section, Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz ;

and

(6) Reproduction of Salvador Dali's "The Great Masturbator."

Now, I rather like all those -- I wonder why he changed them?

I wonder if the Berkshire underground bunkers he refers to are the ones that the CND Easter marchers found, and publicized, in the early 1960s?

Where's the reference -- let's see... Yeah, this is it:

1963 April 12 (Good Friday) -- The "Spies for Peace" episode: "At the outset of the sixth Aldermaston March, over 4,000 copies of a duplicated pamphlet were distributed to the marchers and to national newspapers, purporting to reveal the closely guarded whereabouts of all the underground bunkers from which government would be carried on in the case of nuclear war. Page after page of highly classified Official Secrets were thus broadcast for all to see. One 'Regional Seat of Government' happened to be situated in a wood just off the CND's route into London, and a section of the march, by far the most unruly and hysterical ever held, split off from the main body to pay homage." (Christopher Booker, The Neophiliacs, p198.)

Is it _those_ particular bunkers Ballard was specifying?

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[MH: 23 November 2006]

DP writes: Is it _those_ particular bunkers Ballard was specifying?

Searching the web reveals a detailed account of the Regional Seats of Government, including their locations, as well as a brief account of the "Spies for Peace" episode: http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/features/sfs/file5.htm

The demonstration was actually at RSG 6 at Warren Row, near Maidenhead, Berkshire.

So where was RSG 4, the one that JGB refers to? Well, it was in the old Regional War Rooms in Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge. Like most of the RSGs, it did not have sufficient room to house all the staff in time of emergency, so extra living and working space (without fallout protection) would be made available in nearby buildings. And where was this for RSG 4? ... "The support headquarters for RSG4 at Cambridge was ... to be The Leys School, a large imposing public school a few hundred yards from the main RSG site."

Either an amazing coincidence or, more likely, JGB had heard of the agreement with his old school and decided to be slightly less than accurate with his description.

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[DP: 23 November 2006]

MH writes: Either an amazing coincidence or, more likely, JGB had heard of the agreement with his old school and decided to be slightly less than accurate with his description.

Well researched!

So, if there was more "personal significance" to that reference than we had realized, why did he cut it out?

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[MH: 23 November 2006]

DP writes: So, if there was more "personal significance" to that reference than we had realized, why did he cut it out?

I'm also puzzled by the fact that the list was changed in the Cape edition but not the Doubleday edition, since presumably they were both being worked on at much the same time. (e.g. JGB mentions both publishers in one of those letters to Jannick Storm that were up for sale recently; in May '69 he wrote "I would very much like to use Reagan in both the British and American editions, but I can't see either Doubleday or Cape over here being prepared to include the story.")

The changes themselves are interesting because he replaces references to nuclear bunkers, Auschwitz, and The Great Masturbator, with refs to a spectroheliograph, a tribolite, and Garden Airplane Traps. The former are just what one might expect in 'The Atrocity Exhibition' - it's almost as if he wanted a more random list, maybe to give the reader more of a feeling that Travis is viewing the world in a very unusual way indeed.

And that list appears in the second paragraph of the book, so maybe he thought it was important to give the 'right' feel to it at the outset.

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[DP: 23 November 2006]

MH writes: So where was RSG 4, the one that JGB refers to? Well, it was in the old Regional War Rooms in Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge...

_Brooklands_ Avenue, eh? Ah, but what's in a name.

And what has become of that "RSG 4" nuclear bunker site? (So close to JGB's old school.) It has now become an award-winning postmodernist "village," named Accordia. See:

http://www.homedesignawards.com/homebuilder/homebuilder_2004/Category_14/accord_\2004.htm

Note the words: "The ... site had for years been regarded as an eyesore, with 50-year-old yellow prefabs containing offices for the Inland Revenue, DEFRA and driving test examiners, but also hiding a Cold War underground bunker."

Why is it I sometimes get the feeling this whole world of ours has been dreamed by JGB? He has written the entire script, and when he goes the whole of so-called reality will just go ... POP! ... and leave not a wrack behind.


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