Jesse Ball


published by Granta Books

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.


US-based writer Jesse Ball has written more than ten books of prose and poetry, but Census is his first UK publication. The novel follows a father and son as they travel across a nameless landscape in the wake of the father’s terminal diagnosis. As their story progresses, we discover more about the remarkable boy and his condition, and the love and understanding between a father and his child. Jesse Ball was named a Granta Best of Young American Novelists in 2017.

“It is heartening to learn that this support, the Gordon Burn Prize, has been given to my book, Census, a book that in many ways is not my own. From the first, it was for my brother, a person who no longer exists (he is in the ground). As his, it is a book pointed at a world that we do not live in, but perhaps could. I would like for people to read the work because I think we can see differently than we do. We need not be limited by the poverty that is forced upon us, when we are already, every one of us, so rich in sight.”