The Geometer Lobachevsky
By: Adrian Duncan
Publication Date: April 2022
The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2023 WALTER SCOTT PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2023 KERRY GROUP IRISH NOVEL OF THE YEAR
When I was sent by the Soviet state to London to further my studies in calculus, knowing I would never become a great mathematician, I strayed instead into the foothills of anthropology.
It is 1950 and Nikolai Lobachevsky, a Glav Torf mathematician and great-grandson of his illustrious namesake, is aiding Bord na Móna by surveying a bog in the Irish Midlands. Far from home, he studies the locals and the land. One afternoon, soon after he arrives, he receives a telegram calling him back to Leningrad for a ‘special appointment’. Lobachevsky may not be a great genius but he is not foolish: he recognises a death sentence when he sees one and leaves to go into hiding on a small island in the Shannon estuary, where the island families harvest seaweed and struggle to split rocks. Here Lobachevsky must think about death, how to avoid it and whether he will ever see his home again.
Following Duncan’s critically acclaimed Love Notes from a German Building Site (2019), A Sabbatical in Leipzig (2020) and Midfield Dynamo (2021), Duncan’s themes of emigration, displacement and work connect Ireland with the world stage. Colm Tóibín said of Love Notes: ‘Written in spare, exact prose … Duncan writes beautifully about cold weather, gruff manners, systems of hierarchy … A portrait of work [and] a picture of a sensibility.’
PRAISE FOR ADRIAN DUNCAN
‘To say that Adrian Duncan’s The Geometer Lobachevsky is the story of a man surveying an Irish bog is akin to relegating Leonardo’s Last Supper to thirteen men having dinner. Like the bog Lobachevsky is surveying, the unassuming surface conceals ‘a subterranean ocean on a gusty day’.
Trained as a structural engineer, Duncan brings an engineer’s precision to the thoughts, feelings, actions, observations, reminiscences and melancholy predicament of Nikolai, great-grandson of the famous mathematician. The pace is measured, the vision clear, the tensions subtle but relentless. Into an era of crash bang wallop, Duncan drops this quiet gem.’ JUDGES’ OF THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION
‘If more men thought and wrote as tenderly and honestly, we’d have stronger, sturdier novels and fewer garish monuments to consumerism.’ DAVID O’CONNOR, THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
‘A reflective, beautifully paced novel.’ SARAH GILMARTIN, IRISH TIMES
‘Of course, if you’re as good a writer as Duncan, part of the [publishing] industry may come to reshape itself around you. Long may he continue to write about his obsessions.’ JOHN SELF, IRISH TIMES
‘Duncan appears interested in excising any curlicues or flourishes from his prose until it is a simple, elegant, reflective surface.’ JOHN SELF, THE CRITIC
‘What is most fascinating about Adrian’s writing is his ability to a story from the technical skills he has used as an engineer.’ JESSICA THOMPSON, LONGFORD LEADER
‘A masterful meditation. The Geometer Lobachevsky is another arresting, enigmatic work by one of our most original writers.’ LUKE WARDE, SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
‘The story he tells is a kind of deception, and it is the subtle deceptions of language that are this novel’s true subject … Many have seen the tendency among Irish writers, from Joyce and Beckett up to Eimear McBride, towards experimentation as originating in this sense of foundational linguistic dispossession. With this novel, Duncan proves himself to be one of the most subtle explorers of this condition writing today.’ KEVIN BRAZIL, LITERARY REVIEW
‘The Geometer Lobachevsky is a filmic — if not filmable — work … Engineering and literature, in Duncan’s skilled and sensitive hands, make for quite the couple.’ MATTHEW JANNEY, FINANCIAL TIMES
Listen to Adrian speaking to Seán Rocks on RTÉ Arena here.
Listen to Adrian speaking to Katy Conneely on All About Books, Dublin City FM, here.
‘A tender, thoughtful, often startlingly beautiful piece of literary fiction … Duncan brings new insight to his trademark preoccupations – men, work, emigration, construction – and explores the desire to create meaning in an unmasterable world. Lobachevsky and Rhatigan are both fascinating characters. But the star of the novel is its unforgettable setting: the strange rocky island, and that shifting, squelchy bog where language slips and fixed ideas fall apart.’ ALEXANDER WELLS, EXBERLINER
‘A beautifully crafted synthesis of intellectual athleticism and aesthetic originality … Duncan schematises the many overlapping, entwining and diverging systems – organic and mechanical – which structure our reality with both rigor and quiet tenderness. It is required reading for the Anthropocene.’ PÁDRAIG NOLAN, TOTALLY DUBLIN
The peatlands of my youth feel eerie without machinery: a feature by Adrian in the Irish Independent, which can be read here.
‘Duncan’s refusal to make things ‘too easy’, to turn away from the furrow he works towards the rising sun, is what makes his work so unique and essential. Read this book, and all his others.’ CHRIS BEAUSANG
‘[The Geometer Lobachevsky] sets you thinking afresh about what has gone before … Mathematics – the realm of the geometrician – is precise and orderly; there is, as our teachers used to tell us, only the one right answer. Language is a different, more porous, and more deceptive thing altogether. The Geometer Lobachevsky is quite the literary trick, delivered with precision engineering.’ PAT CARTY, HOT PRESS
‘An atmospheric tableau … artfully arranged and intriguing’ THE GUARDIAN
Rick O’Shea Book Club pick 2022
RTÉ Best Irish Book 2022
Irish Times Best Book of 2022
The White Review Book of the Year
Exberliner Berlin Author of the Year 2022
‘Duncan’s best work yet … [his writing style] has the capacity to deliver a gut-punching blow … It’s the kind of book that makes you remember why you read. It challenges but doesn’t ostracise. Its style is authentic, never affected. Duncan’s current readers will already be well aware of his talents, but he ought to have a great many more.’ SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
‘I’ve been proselytising about Duncan’s writing for years, and each new work adds kindling to my cause. His latest novel about a Soviet mathematician exiled in Ireland and working on a Bord na Móna project is intelligent, atmospheric and disarmingly moving.’ NIAMH DONNELLY, IRISH TIMES
‘True to form, Duncan brings engineering into the text, teasing out the relationship between the languages of words and numbers … there’s an insistent, underlying thrum of fear, too, bringing to mind the Julian Barnes novel The Noise of Time … Lobachevsky will surely add to [Duncan’s] accolades.’ ANNE CUNNINGHAM, MEATH CHRONICLE
‘Duncan skilfully melds past and present in a story layered with betrayal and dread.’ ORNA MULCAHY, THE GLOSS
‘[A] haunting exploration of mathematics, masculinity and more’ EXBERLINER
‘Duncan conjures the insularity of small-town life and community, as well as the sublime nature of these changing landscapes in 1950s Ireland … [he] has crafted a stirring, thoughtful tale.’ JULIANO ZAFFINO
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adrian Duncan was born in County Longford and originally trained as an engineer. He is a Berlin-based visual artist and filmmaker. His short fictions have appeared in literary journals both in Ireland and the USA. His acclaimed debut novel, Love Notes from a German Building Site, published by Lilliput and Head of Zeus in 2019. He was shortlisted for the Emerging Writer Award at the inaugural 2020 Dalkey Literary Awards and won the inaugural John McGahern Annual Book Prize. His second novel, A Sabbatical in Leipzig, was published by Lilliput in 2020 and is forthcoming from Profile Books. It was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2021. His first short story collection, Midfield Dynamo, was published in 2021 and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. His most recent novel, The Geometer Lobachevsky, has been shortlisted for the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the 2023 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.
|Dimensions||136 × 216 mm|
Paperback with flaps, 208pp.