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Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

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Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi Cover

 

Staff Pick

Geoff Dyer, the author of books on subjects as diverse as jazz, D. H. Lawrence, photography, and World War I, is at the top of his game with his latest offering. Jeff in Venice, Death In Varanasi (the title is a play on Thomas Mann's Death in Venice) is a pair of novellas which wonderfully combine bits of travel, art, humor, and philosophy. It's a book that may leave you with more questions than answers (Is Geoff Jeff? Is Venice Varanasi?). But, with writing this original and enjoyable to read, who really cares?
Recommended by Shawn D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A wildly original novel of erotic fulfillment and spiritual yearning.

Every two years the international art world descends on Venice for the opening of the Biennale. Among them is Jeff Atman — a jaded and dissolute journalist — whose dedication to the cause of Bellini-fuelled partygoing is only intermittently disturbed by the obligation to file a story. When he meets the spellbinding Laura, he is rejuvenated, ecstatic. Their romance blossoms quickly, but is it destined to disappear just as rapidly?

Every day thousands of pilgrims head to the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi, the holiest Hindu city in India. Among their number is a narrator who may or may not be the Atman previously seen in Venice. Intending to visit only for a few days he ends up staying for months, and suddenly finds — or should that be loses? — a hitherto unexamined idea of himself, the self. In a romance he can only observe, he sees a reflection of the kind of pleasures that, willingly or not, he has renounced. In the process, two ancient and watery cities become versions of each other. Could two stories, in two different cities, actually be one and the same story?

Nothing Geoff Dyer has written before is as wonderfully unbridled, as dead-on in evocation of place, longing and the possibility of neurotic enlightenment, and as irrepressibly entertaining as Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi.

Review:

"Two 40-ish men seeking love and existential meaning are the protagonists of these highly imaginative twin novellas, written in sensuous, lyrical prose brimming with colorful detail. In the first, Jeff Atman is a burnt-out, self-loathing London hack journalist who travels to scorching, Bellini-soaked Venice to cover the 2003 Biennale, and there finds the woman of his dreams and an incandescent love affair. The unnamed narrator of the second novella (who may be the same Jeff) is an undistinguished London journalist on assignment in the scorching Indian holy city of Varanasi, where the burning ghats, the filth and squalid poverty and the sheer crush of bodies move him to abandon worldly ambition and desire. Dyer's ingenious linking of these contrasting narratives is indicative of his intelligence and stylistic grace, and his ability to evoke atmosphere with impressive clarity is magical. Both novellas ask trenchant philosophical questions, include moments of irresistible humor and offer arresting observations about art and human nature. For all his wit and cleverness, Dyer is unflinching in conveying the empty lives of his contemporaries, and in doing so he's written a work of exceptional resonance." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"A haunting, if frequently hilarious, meditation on love and art, life and music . . . all reflected in the twinned mirror pools of Venice and Varanasi. And how rare it is to find a book so smart and winning that doesn't shy away from compelling philosophical investigation." Joshua Ferris, 304 pp.

About the Author

Geoff Dyer is the author of three novels, a critical study of John Berger, and five genre-defying books, including But Beautiful, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, and Out of Sheer Rage, which was a National Book Critics Circle finalist. He lives in London.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Jennmarie68, March 12, 2010 (view all comments by Jennmarie68)
This one is giving me mixed emotions... Which I think is a good thing.

The story follows Jeff, a freelance art writer from London. Jeff travels to Venice to cover a festival, where he meets a woman. They have a whirl-wind romance fueled by booze and drugs. The second part of the story is kind of a mystery. The narrator ends up in Varanasi and ends up staying, presumably forever (but we don't ever really know). In Varanasi he undergoes changes, life altering "spiritual" changes. But again, the fruition to which these changes lead the narrator is unknown.

I really liked the story, and although I felt the writing was a bit embellished I liked the writing also. My biggest complaint has nothing to do with the story whatsoever, rather it's the use of one very offensive word - the c word. I'm by no means a prude, quite frankly I could make a sailor blush, but there are a few words that even I won't mutter and the c word is one of them. I don't know why this bothered me so bad, but I actually had to put the book down for a while to let myself cool off. As I was reading the more I kept thinking about that word and the more upset I got. I know it's crazy, but it just bothered me.... Once I cooled off a bit I was able to read it without seething, I guess I was having a moment.

I liked the wit that was apparent throughout the book. I think without the added wit the story would have been somewhat lacking. But the humor made me want to keep reading (after I got over the c word thing). Something that was a little odd, but was part of the mystery of the second part, was that the first part of the book is written in third person whereas the second part is written in first person. But again, there is so much mystery as to who the narrator is (presumably Jeff from the first part, but I'll let you make your own decision). Then the mystery as to if he ever returns home...

I can't say I loved this book, but I think that it was good. I have never read anything that reminds me of this so I can't make any comparison. I liked it, but at times it kind of teetered on a thin line between brilliant and completely absurd.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307377371
Subtitle:
A Novel
Publisher:
Pantheon
Author:
DYER, GEOFF
Subject:
Journalists
Subject:
British
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Venice (Italy)
Publication Date:
20090407
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9.32x6.50x1.16 in. 1.20 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 304 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780307377371 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Geoff Dyer, the author of books on subjects as diverse as jazz, D. H. Lawrence, photography, and World War I, is at the top of his game with his latest offering. Jeff in Venice, Death In Varanasi (the title is a play on Thomas Mann's Death in Venice) is a pair of novellas which wonderfully combine bits of travel, art, humor, and philosophy. It's a book that may leave you with more questions than answers (Is Geoff Jeff? Is Venice Varanasi?). But, with writing this original and enjoyable to read, who really cares?

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Two 40-ish men seeking love and existential meaning are the protagonists of these highly imaginative twin novellas, written in sensuous, lyrical prose brimming with colorful detail. In the first, Jeff Atman is a burnt-out, self-loathing London hack journalist who travels to scorching, Bellini-soaked Venice to cover the 2003 Biennale, and there finds the woman of his dreams and an incandescent love affair. The unnamed narrator of the second novella (who may be the same Jeff) is an undistinguished London journalist on assignment in the scorching Indian holy city of Varanasi, where the burning ghats, the filth and squalid poverty and the sheer crush of bodies move him to abandon worldly ambition and desire. Dyer's ingenious linking of these contrasting narratives is indicative of his intelligence and stylistic grace, and his ability to evoke atmosphere with impressive clarity is magical. Both novellas ask trenchant philosophical questions, include moments of irresistible humor and offer arresting observations about art and human nature. For all his wit and cleverness, Dyer is unflinching in conveying the empty lives of his contemporaries, and in doing so he's written a work of exceptional resonance." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A haunting, if frequently hilarious, meditation on love and art, life and music . . . all reflected in the twinned mirror pools of Venice and Varanasi. And how rare it is to find a book so smart and winning that doesn't shy away from compelling philosophical investigation."
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