The Divers' Game | Granta

  • Published: 03/10/2019
  • ISBN: 9781783785872
  • 129x20mm
  • 240 pages

The Divers’ Game

Jesse Ball

A pair of girls, Lethe and Lois, navigates the perimeters of a segregated city, armed with canisters of killing gas. Another child, Lessen, is at the centre of a bizarre cultural ritual that could be the subject of a Goya painting.

Centring on the garish festivals of an allegorical nation, The Divers’ Game moves through worlds in which kindness is no longer meaningful. A scathing indictment of the inequalities of Western society, it makes visible the violence that has threaded its way into every aspect of our lives, and the radical empathy we need to combat it.

Ball richly imagines a society where empathy is eroded at every level...Chilling


Powerful... A dark fairytale... Ball's approach has a sort of shock and spite to it, though; a structural brutality that reflects the world he's made... The Divers' Game can be quite hard to read for all the resonances it carries of real segregated societies. And it is primarily Ball's thorniness as a writer, his perverse streak tempered by an innocence similar to George Saunders that makes it easier to countenance the creation of them, and keeps them urgent

Irish Times

Thanks to [Ball's] giant Atwoodian imagination, elegant writing, and fiery, contagious sense of injustice [...] this literary call to arms stays on the right side of missionary zeal. He cries out for 'radical empathy'. I can't think of a better description of what's required

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The Author

Jesse Ball (b. 1978, New York) is known for absurd and philosophical works of social criticism, often in the form of novels. His prize-winning books have been published in many languages. Since 2007 he has been on the faculty of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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From the Same Author


Jesse Ball

‘CENSUS is a vital testament to selfless love; a psalm to commonplace miracles; and a mysterious evolving metaphor. So kind, it aches.’ David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas

A father and son who are census takers journey across a nameless country from the town of A to the town of Z in the wake of the father’s fatal diagnosis. Knowing that his time is menacingly short, the father takes his son, who requires close and constant adult guidance, on this trip of indefinite length. Their feelings for each other are challenged and bolstered as they move in and out of a variety of homes, meeting a variety of different people. Census is about the ways in which people react to the son’s condition, to the son as a person in the world. It is about discrimination and acceptance, kindness and art, education and love. It is a profoundly moving novel, glowing with wisdom and grace, roaring with a desire to change the world.

Jesse Ball on

Fiction | Granta 156

The Repeat Room

Jesse Ball

‘The place was so squat and pitiless, so endless, repetitive, fluorescent.’

Fiction by Jesse Ball.

Art & Photography | The Online Edition

Drawings of Monsters

Jesse Ball

‘When I was 4 or 5 I sent the Queen of England drawings of monsters.’

In Conversation | Granta 139

Jesse Ball | Interview

Jesse Ball

‘Confusion is the only natural response to the world, the alternative would be to just fall in with everyone else’s plans.’