Jesse Ball’s ‘strange and beautiful’ Census wins Gordon Burn prize

Judges praise fable inspired by the author’s late brother as perfect match for prize’s ambition to reward writing ‘that dares to enter history’

A fable inspired by the author Jesse Ball’s late brother, who had Down’s syndrome, has won the Gordon Burn prize.

The American author’s Census, which follows a terminally ill father and his son as they conduct a survey of a nameless country, beat works including Guy Gunaratne’s Booker-longlisted novel In Our Mad and Furious City to the £5,000 award at the Durham book festival on Thursday evening. The prize is for work that follows in the footsteps of Burn – “novels which dare to enter history and interrogate the past; non-fiction adventurous enough to inhabit characters and events in order to create new and vivid realities” – and has been won in the past by writers including Paul Kingsnorth and Benjamin Myers.

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