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'Empire of the Sun' author Ballard dies

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  • Celebrated author J.G. Ballard dies at age of 78 from cancer
  • Ballard began writing science fiction in 1950s
  • His semi-autobiographical novel "Empire of the Sun" was made into film
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(CNN) -- British author J.G. Ballard, whose boyhood experience in a World War II internment camp became the novel and film "Empire of the Sun," died Sunday at age 78, his literary agent said. He had suffered from cancer for several years.

Ballard's semi-autobiographical "Empire of the Sun" was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg.

Ballard's semi-autobiographical "Empire of the Sun" was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg.

"J.G. Ballard has been a giant on the world literary scene for more than 50 years," Margaret Hanbury said Monday.

"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."

Ballard was born in a Western enclave in the Chinese city of Shanghai in 1930. The Japanese occupied the city in 1937, and Ballard and his family were placed in a civilian internment camp in 1943.

He began writing science fiction in the 1950s, with his work taking on a strongly psychological, apocalyptic bent in later decades.

But, "Empire of the Sun," his semi-autobiographical account of the war years, became his best-known work, and it was made into a film by director Steven Spielberg in 1988.

Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg adapted another of Ballard's novels, "Crash," in 1996.

Its plot -- people sexually aroused by car accidents -- drew the novel an initial reaction of "beyond psychiatric help" from his publisher and an adults-only rating for the film.

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