The High-Rise of the title is, as the Italian translation of the title suggests, a 40-storey “condominium” that hosts some 2,000 families and thousands of people.
All the luxurious flats have been recently fully occupied as is happening with the other nearby tall units this side west of the Thames, conveniently built in an area just 2 miles from the City of London.
The excitement for the new life in this trendy building inhabited by professionals is revealed through the crazy and vibrant parties that are held every night on its several floors.
Relationships and ways seem to anticipate the Eighties (or be a follow-up of the Roaring Thirties). Champagne, designer’s clothes, jewels, upper class style, beauties and flirting and wealth are what these parties are made of. Like in Hollywood, before and after the Oscar ceremony.
The external narrator takes us from floor to floor following the adventures of the high-rise inhabitants. In particular of Dr. Laing, who lives in the central section, Anthony Royal, one of the architects who planned it and lives on the exclusive top floor and Richard Wilder, a camera operator who occupies a low floor apartment.
The contagious craze seems to hide for a while a minor accident, the death by drowning of an Alsatian dog in one of the pools of the building. This event does actually anticipate the first of a series of tragic deaths, the death of a jeweller who fell (?) from one of the top floors.
Strangely, no one seems to bother too much about it, as no one seems to bother about the waste from the parties that is starting to fill the space that leads to the entrance of the building. Broken bottles are spread everywhere, the windshields of cars parked under the condo are crashed. The whole place seems to be contaminated by an atmosphere of negligence and degradation.
And of violence too.
Little by little the microcosm that inhabits the place replicates the class division. There are the lower floors, aka working class, the central floors that represent the middle class and, well, the top floors with the decadent wealthy aristocracy.
While those living at the bottom want to go up (for various reasons: to go to the supermarket, to take the kids to school, even to raid some of the top flats for revenge), the “uppers” start building barricades to block this ascent that might compromise their privileged role. And lifts stop working, one after the other.
First groups of people of the same floor start to be forming, then simply clans, in a kind of atavistic new social system. Hunters leave their rooms at night in search for food, violence and sex. Dirt is everywhere and symbolizes man’s degradation to a primeval state.
For a period of time, people go and commute to work everyday, as nothing was happening, just to come back and live their parallel existence in this brutal new dimension.
Afterwards however the “life in the High-Rise” becomes their only real dimension. Food shortage makes people turn to pets and dogs to satisfy their hunger and to muddy water to quench their thirst.
The shootdown is built around the destiny of Dr Laing who will end up living with, protecting and feeding his new family ,his wife and another woman - who live as Siamese sisters; Anthony Royal, estranged by the wife and everyone else, who spend his last moments fascinated by the seagulls’ takeover of the top floor garden and will commit suicide by “drowning” in the empty swimming pool; and the Rambo-like Wilder who, after shooting Royal, will finally reach the top floor to willingly surrender and be (presumably) killed by the knives of the surviving women from different floors that seem to have a started a new matriarchal society.
The last scene is seen through the eyes of Dr Laing who, while bbqing a dog for his 2 women, blissfully savours the destiny of the inhabitants of the opposite unit who are going to start an “indoor” civil war as the one that has just taken place in his own building.
pensate ad un palazzo di 40 piani e mille appartamenti, elegante, residenziale e modernissimo. All'inizio è un paradiso, un sistema unico ed indipendente (all'interno vi sono scuole, nidi, piscine, ristoranti, centri commerciali, decine di ascensori, un innovativo sistema di raccolta rifiuti etc). Eppure qualcosa si rompe, simbolicamente inizia con la mancanza di luce in alcuni piani del mezzo...da qui inizia la decadenza del condominio e dei suoi abitanti. Tutto diventa una lotta ed un'ascesa dicoloro che abitano i piani inferiori per raggiungere i superiori. I corridoi diventano pattumiere così come l'esterno dove si concentrano uccellacci, molti ascensori vengono transennati, nella piscina galleggiano rifiuti, cani e persone. Gli appartamenti dove prima si celebravano feste diventano teatro di uccisioni e stupri. Ballard usa molto la simbologia ed un linguaggio cinematografico. Personalmente ho trovato l'idea di base ottima, ma poi nelle pagine un pò troppa ripetizione...Continua
“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”
From the very first line of this bizarrely dystopian novel it is clear Ballard is out to appal his reader; but the satirical delivery in High Rise leaves you with a lingering sense of unease rather than a big slap around the face of disgust.
The novel’s focus is on the depravity that occurs within the confines of a forty story tower block. Outrageous behaviour is displayed from society’s upper class professionals – including doctors, teachers and architects.
The novel predominantly describes the collapse of the residents of the luxury tower block into barbarism and immorality...
...Read the rest of this review on our blog.
The Never-Ending Library is run by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd employees about the HarperCollins Publishers Ltd books that we have read and love....Continua