‘Prima Belladonna’ by JG Ballard
This is Ballard’s first published story (1956, I believe, although it is listed as 1957 here) and, though I’ve read it before, it was still something of a shock since I am now more used to his later work. Although some of the tropes are already there – middle class professionals idling away time in hermetic resorts – the writing, particularly the dialogue, is much more slangy and snappy than we might expect, the vibe is the decadent boredom of Burroughs in Mexico. In essence this is Ballard before he became fixated on the Sixities and, unlike almost everything else he has written, it reads like the work of a young man.
As a bonus, here is a short film inspired by the story which I found on YouTube whilst looking for online criticism:
Somewhat predictably, this has Hartwell’s longest, most rambling and spurious introduction so far.