In all these years, I'd never been to Sophia Antipolis before, so I was quite looking forward to my first visit. Unfortunately, the visit was spoiled because as I stepped out of taxi and looked around, I suddenly found the landscape both familiar -- despite never having been there -- and strangely sinister. For a moment I was genuinely disconnected, and then I realised that it was because of J. G. Ballard. One of the greatest of all English novelists, his Super Cannes, which I read some years ago. Ballard's descriptions of the buildings, the executive cars lined up out side them, the trees partly hiding the landscape, are so perfect that my brain slipped out of gear for a moment as it tried to come to terms with the fact that I hadn't actually been there before. Although I'd forgotten about the book up until this moment, the sense of lurking amorality washed over me as soon as I breathed the air there.
It actually is quite an odd place, in that while it's in beautiful hills and no more than an expensive taxi ride away from Nice, there is a pervading artificiality that is slightly jarring. If you're driving around the Cambridge Science Park, say, then it is openly artificial, a medium-is-the-message artefact of the times, and so it's not odd. But you don't get that feeling here. Maybe it's because it's just new. Fortunately, none of the people I met looked as if they might be murdering immigrants in their spare time, but you can never really tell, can you?