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The Divers’ Game

From the inimitable mind of award-winning author Jesse Ball, a novel about an unsettlingly familiar society that has renounced the concept of equality—and the devastating consequences of unmitigated power. 

The old-fashioned struggle for fairness has finally been abandoned. It was a misguided endeavour. The world is divided into two groups, pats and quads. The pats may kill the quads as they like, and do. The quads have no recourse but to continue with their lives.

The Divers’ Game is a thinly veiled description of our society, an extreme case that demonstrates a truth: we must change or our world will collapse.

What is the effect of constant fear on a life, or on a culture? Brilliantly constructed and achingly tender, The Divers’ Game shatters the notion of common decency as the binding agent between individuals, forcing us to consider whether compassion is intrinsic to the human experience. With his signature empathy and ingenuity, Jesse Ball’s latest work solidifies his reputation as one of contemporary fiction’s most mesmerising talents.


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Jesse Ball
About the Author

Jesse Ball (1978–). Novelist, absurdist. Born in New York. His many and varied works are beloved in a dozen languages.

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Text publication date:
1 October 2019
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Praise for Jesse Ball
andThe Divers’ Game

‘A young genius who hits all of the right notes.’

‘Jesse Ball [is] among our most compelling and daring writers today.’

‘A poet by trade, Ball understands the economy of language better than most fiction writers today.’

‘A dystopian tale imbued with empathy, philosophical musings, and questions about compassion, generational trauma, and humanity.’

‘A novel that increases in power and resonance like a reversed echo…The Divers’ Game is tremendous, grasping towards what it is to be alive right now.’

‘Ball richly imagines a society where empathy is eroded at every level—a condemnation of the by-design inequalities of wealth, justice, freedom and opportunity that underpin western societies.’

‘Compulsively readable…literature like The Divers’ Game is crucial—it is how fiction should be—confronting, illuminating, and challenging to our complacency.’

‘Jesse Ball is a writer of formal mysteriousness and neon moral clarity…His language is spare, strange and evocative, with a tugging indeterminism…Ball maps the delusions of a society that lacks kindness but compulsively tells itself stories about its virtue…The novel’s focus on empathy may open it to charges of sentimentality, but there is little in The Divers’ Game to flatter the hope that people have any interest in treating each other well. Ball, instead, conveys a warm pity, or a mediated grace.‘

‘Jesse Ball can do no wrong…[The Divers’ Game is] a terrifyingly plausible take on an alternative present.‘

‘Ball uses the dystopian mode to deliver short, disturbing pieces of fiction, that cut to the heart of our humanity. In The Divers’ Game, Ball has delivered another gem.’

‘Jesse Ball is an audaciously confident writer. His prose is crisp, sharp, and elusive. Kafkaesque, Borgesian.’

‘Ball takes aspects already present in society – fear, violence, otherness – to a socialised extreme, in a way that calls our humanity into question. His writing is poetic and exquisite, provoking both moral reflection and morbid fascination with the dark world he draws…Ball has written the 1984 for the 21st century. Read it.’

‘Jesse Ball reveals his talent for dystopian fabulism in The Divers’ Game…[it] builds into a layered parable about the importance of empathy.‘

Other editions ofThe Divers’ Game
  • The Divers’ Game
    ISBN: 9781925774979
    1 October 2019
    Buy ebook