Ballard on Modernism

A handful of dust

The modernists wanted to strip the world of mystery and emotion. No wonder they excelled at the architecture of death, says JG Ballard

Few people today visit Utah beach. The sand seems colder and flatter than anywhere else along the Normandy coast where the Allies landed on D-day. The town of Arromanches – a few miles to the east and closer to Omaha, Gold and Sword beaches – is a crowded theme park of war museums, cemeteries and souvenir shops, bunkers and bunting. Guidebooks in hand, tourists edge gingerly around the German gun emplacements and try to imagine what it was like to stare down the gun sights at the vast armada approaching the shore.

But Utah beach, on the western edge of the landing grounds, is silent. A few waves swill over the sand as if too bored to think of anything else. The coastal land seems lower than the sea, and fails to echo the sounds of war inside one’s head.

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