Center of Gravity

Center of Gravity
Alexey Polyarinov

480 pages;
hardcover;
2018.

This novel by Aleksei Poliarinov resembles a complex system of lakes. It is a story of adulthood, political satire, dystopia, a lace of fairy-tales... But his characters — a young journalist, a hacker and an artist — live in Moscow and resist the brave new world as they can, protecting their center of gravity — themselves, their families and their homeland.

Center of Gravity is a meta-novel. It starts as a Bildungsroman about two boys trying to find a lost lake in a provincial Russian landscape in the 1990s. The novel then splits into three separate narratives. The first narrator is a mathematician working for an IT-company. While developing a face-recognition algorithm, he faces a moral dilemma as he realizes his work is being used for some ambiguous and unclear purposes. The second narrator is an anonymous performance artist who uses her art as a political manifesto against the authoritarian regime in Russia. The third narrator is journalist in a near-future Russia, trying to save a left-wing magazine he and his friends work for. The three narratives are strongly interconnected. They echo and comment on each other, creating a meta-narrative which explores the work of a writer at large.

Alexey Polyarinov is a writer, translator, and a literary critic. He is best known for his recent translation of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest into Russian. His debut novel Center of Gravity was released in summer of 2018, and received positive reviews from the critics. The novel was nominated for The National Bestseller Prize in 2019. Polyarinov also published Almost Two Kilograms of Words, a book of literary criticism, in 2019. Almost Two Kilograms of Words inquires into post- and meta-modern literature, and American and British authors such as Pynchon, Delillo, Marxon, Barnes, Ishiguro etc.