Many former China internees have taken issue with Empire of the Sun over factual inaccuracies, uncomplimentary portrayals of recognizable people and the feeling that Ballard appropriated a story belonging to them.
“What upset many former inmates was that his hero, Jim, admired the Japanese,” said Barr, who knew Ballard. “I didn’t mind that but felt that some of what he wrote was not related to the reality. The film was even further removed.”
Ballard, who died in 2009, said his best-known novel was based on memories.
“Some of the events that I described are imaginary, but ... Empire of the Sun is a novel that is firmly based on true experiences, either my own or those told to me by other internees,” he wrote in his autobiography Miracles of Life.
The novel came out 40 years after the events it depicted, but the writer explained: “It took me 20 years to forget Shanghai and 20 years to remember.”