EMPIRE OF THE SUN is a novel written by J G Ballard and published in 1984. It is semi-autobiographical and based on his own experiences as a young boy, born and brought up in the British community in Shanghai during the second world war. Jim, the protagonist of the story, is clearly based on the author’s own experience of living in the cossetted, wealthy atmosphere of an idyllic childhood replete with huge house, servants and busy, mostly absent parents. When the Japanese invade and occupy a large part of China, Jim’s life changes dramatically; the Empire of the Sun name has its origin in the etymology of the name ‘Japan’.
He wants to grow up to be a pilot and idolises the Japanese Army and Air Force. He lives for three years in an internment camp, separated from his parents, where he survives with the help of some American soldiers, especially Baisie. Jim realises that Baisie is basically a crook on the make but he doesn’t seem to mind. At the end of the war, he is reunited with his parents and travels reluctantly to England for the first time having grown physically and mentally during the ordeal.