2015 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction

Jesse Ball

A Cure for Suicide Jesse Ball by Joe Lieske
A Cure for Suicide
(Pantheon Books)
ISBN: 978-1101870129

National Book Foundation: In the process of writing your book, what did you discover, what, if anything, surprised you?
Ball: I am always surprised that the books occur the way they do -- almost unasked for. I was in Berlin in 2013 working with an art collective, the Poyais Group. Some members went north to Scandinavia to get tattooed and I had a week to myself, so I thought: this is the time. I wrote the book, waking up each day with anticipation: what will happen today? I'd roam around the city, and at the same time I would roam around the world I was creating, the space of the book. Where will the characters go? Who will they meet and what will it lead to? I wanted the book to be full of sadness, but also joy. I suppose I can be said to be amazed by the way those two quantities intertwine. It is too much to ask for, but when it comes we can be glad.


A woman "examiner" and a man, her "claimant," move into a small house where the examiner teaches the claimant the most simple functions and monitors his progress, until an encounter at a party raises doubts about everything he has learned.

About the Author

Jesse Ball is the author of four previous novels, including Silence Once Begun and Samedi the Deafness, and several works of verse, bestiaries, and sketchbooks. He has been named a finalist for the 2015 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and a 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Ball received an NEA creative writing fellowship for 2014 and the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize, and his verse has been included in the Best American Poetry series. He gives classes on general practice at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Master of Fine Arts Writing program. A Cure for Suicide is his fifth novel.


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Photo credit: Joe Lieske