Writers from HG Wells to JK Rowling have explored the magic and morals of vanishing – one of our most powerful fantasies
HG Wells claimed in his autobiography that he and Joseph Conrad had “never really ‘got on'”, but you wouldn’t suspect that from the gushing fan letter Conrad sent to Wells, eight years his junior but far more established as a writer, in 1897. Before their friendship soured, Conrad idolised him, and he wrote to rhapsodise the author of scientific romances as a “Realist of the Fantastic”. It’s a perceptive formula, capturing Wells’s blend of wild invention and social realism: tea and cakes and time machines. That attitude is nowhere more evident than in the book that elicited Conrad’s letter: The Invisible Man.
Buy Philip Ball’s latest book ‘Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen’ here