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Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Vintage)


Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Vintage) Cover




An empty bar, possibly not even open, with a single table, no bigger than a small round table, but higher, the sort you lean against—there are no stools—while you stand and drink. If floorboards could speak these look like they could tell a tale or two, though the tales would turn out to be one and the same, ending with the same old lament (after a few drinks people think they can walk all over me), not just in terms of what happens here but in bars the world over. We are, in other words, already in a realm of universal truth. The barman comes in from the back—he’s wearing a white barman’s jacket—lights a cigarette and turns on the lights, two fluorescent tubes, one of which doesn’t work properly: it flickers. He looks at the flickering light. You can see him thinking, ‘That needs fixing’, which is not the same thing at all as ‘I’ll fix that today’, but which is very nearly the same as ‘It’ll never be fixed.’ Daily life is full of these small repeated astonishments, hopes (that it might somehow have fixed itself overnight) and resignations (it hasn’t and won’t). A tall man—a customer!—enters the bar, puts his knapsack under the table, the small round table you lean against while drinking. He’s tall but not young, balding, obviously not a terrorist, and there’s no way that his knapsack could contain a bomb, but this unremarkable action—putting a knapsack under the table in a bar—is not one that can now go unremarked, especially by someone who first saw Stalker (on Sunday, February 8, 1981) shortly after seeing Battle of Algiers. He orders something from the barman. The fact that the barman’s jacket is white emphasizes how not terribly clean it is. Although it’s a jacket it also serves as a towel, possibly as a dishcloth, and maybe as a hankie too. The whole place looks like it could be dirty but it’s too dingy to tell and the credits in yellow Russian letters—sci-fi Cyrillic—do not exactly clarify the situation.


It’s the kind of bar men meet in prior to a bank job that is destined to go horribly wrong, and the barman is the type to take no notice of anything that’s not his business and the more things that are not his business the better it is for him, even if it means that business is so slow as to be almost nonexistent. Far as he’s concerned, long as he’s here, minding his own business and wearing his grubby barman’s jacket, he’s doing his job, and if no one comes and no one wants anything and nothing needs doing (the wonky light can wait, as can most things) it’s all the same to him. Still smoking, he trudges over with a coffeepot (he’s one of those barmen who has the knack of imbuing the simplest task with grudge, making it feel like one of the labours of a minimum-wage Hercules), pours some coffee for the stranger, goes out back again and leaves him to it, to his coffee, to his sipping and waiting. Of that there can be no doubt: the stranger is defi nitely waiting for something or someone. 



A caption: some kind of meteorite or alien visitation has led to the creation of a miracle: the Zone. Troops were sent in and never returned. It was surrounded by barbed wire and a police cordon. . . .


This caption was added at the behest of the studio, Mosfilm, who wanted to stress the fantastical nature of the Zone (where the subsequent action will be set). They also wanted to make sure that the ‘bourgeois’ country where all this happened could not be identified with the USSR. Hence this mysterious business of the Zone all happened—according to the caption—‘in our small country’, which put everyone off the scent because the USSR, as we all know, covered a very large area and Russia was (still is) huge too. ‘Russia . . .’, I can hear Laurence Olivier saying it now, in the Barbarossa episode of The World at War. ‘The boundless motherland of Russia.’ Faced with the German invasion of 1941, Russians fell back on the traditional strategy, the strategy that had done for Napoleon and would do for Hitler too: ‘Trade space for time’, a message Tarkovsky took to heart.

Product Details

A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Vintage)
Dyer, Geoff
Vintage Books
Film and Television-History and Criticism
Film - General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
7.99 x 5.18 x 0.67 in 0.52 lb

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Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Vintage) New Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages Vintage Books - English 9780307390318 Reviews:
"Review" by , “Few books about film feel like watching a film, but this one does. We sit with Dyer as he writes about Stalker; he captures its mystery and burnish, he pries it open and gets its glum majesty. As a result of this book, I know the film better, and care about Tarkovsky even more.”
"Review" by , “There is no contemporary writer I admire more than Dyer, and in no book of his does he address his animating idea — The Only Way Not to Waste Time Is to Waste It — more overtly, urgently, empathetically and eloquently.”
"Review" by , “Testifying to the greatness of an underappreciated work of art is the core purpose of criticism, and Dyer has delivered a loving example that's executed with as much care and craft as he finds in his subject…he finds elements along the way that will keep even non-cinéastes onboard. While he dedicates ample energy to how the movie's deliberate pacing runs contrary to modern cinema, its troubled production and the nuts and bolts of its deceptively simple parts, Dyer's rich, restless mind draws the reader in with specific, personal details.”
"Review" by , “Dyer’s evocation of Stalker is vivid; his reading is acute and sometimes brilliant....Dyer is giving a performance, and it’s another Russian genius who presides over his book, namely Vladimir Nabokov....Zona is extremely clever.”
"Review" by , “Walter Benjamin once said that every great work dissolves a genre or founds a new one. But is it only masterpieces that have a monopoly on novelty? What if a writer had written several works that rose to Benjamin’s high definition, not all great, perhaps, but so different from one another, so peculiar to their author, and so inimitable that each founded its own, immediately self-dissolving genre? The English writer Geoff Dyer delights in producing books that are unique, like keys. There is nothing anywhere like Dyer’s semi-fictional rhapsody about jazz, But Beautiful, or his book about the First World War, The Missing of the Somme, or his autobiographical essay about D. H. Lawrence, Out of Sheer Rage, or his essayistic travelogue, Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do it. Dyer’s work is so restlessly various that it moves somewhere else before it can gather a family.  He combines fiction, autobiography, travel writing, cultural criticism, literary theory, and a kind of comic English whining. The result ought to be a mutant mulch but is almost always a louche and canny delight.” James Wood,
"Review" by , “I’d never engaged quite so intensively with a book and a movie at the same time....Though it’s only 228 pages long, Zona manages to feel sprawling. Dyer is an enormously seductive writer. He has a wide-ranging intellect, an effortless facility with language, and a keen sense of humor…irresistible.”
"Review" by , “A personal meditation on Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker — though, this being a Dyer book, it’s about plenty more besides....A digressive but impassioned mash note to a film that defies easy summary.”
"Review" by , “The pleasures of reading Dyer are found in personal asides that connect his ostensible subject to a myriad of tangential subjects....Dyer's lightly carried erudition leads to an entertaining rumination on a cinematic masterpiece.”
"Review" by , “Dyer’s language is at its most efficient in this book, conversational and spare…Mr. Dyer is our Stalker. He guides us through the film, imbuing each shot with meaning or explaining why, in some instances, their nonmeaning is actually better than meaning....Cultural artifacts worthy of this degree of obsession are rare and it’s a pleasure to read Mr. Dyer’s wrestling with one.”
"Review" by , “Dyer is at his digressive best when stopping to consider something that captures his fancy....The comedy and stoner’s straining for meaning is always present. And, when it is rewarded, as it so often is with rich associative memoir and creative criticism in Zona, we feel complicit, we celebrate the sensation at the end of all that straining, alongside with him....For a stalker, or an artist, it is essential to step out of the shadow of your mentor. As a writer, Dyer commits this artistic patricide regularly and more elegantly than most. He does it by writing all the way up to his heroes, documenting his approach to their material, wrestling with them, and leaving this totemic memento at their feet. The mentorship is concluded along with the book and he is free to go off in search of new Rooms, and new Stalkers to take him there.”
"Review" by , “Dyer’s Zona makes an impenetrable film accessible and relateable.”
"Review" by , “It's fascinating to see [Dyer] take on this master of stillness, timelessness and heavy self-regard. Consciousnesses collide, overlap, meld — and if nothing else, the book is a mesmerizing mashup of sensibilities…Dyer remains a uniquely relevant voice. In his genre-jumping refusal to be pinned down, he's an exemplar of our era. And invariably, he leaves you both satiated and hungry to know where he's going next.”
"Review" by , “Geoff Dyer is at his discursive best in Zona.”
"Synopsis" by , The spellbinding new book from the acclaimed author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is a wide-ranging investigation into the masterpiece of cinema that has haunted him since he first saw it thirty years ago.

The putative subject of Zona is the film Stalker, by the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. As Dyer immerses us more and more deeply in the movie, it becomes apparent that Stalker, for all its power to obsess him, is only the point of departure for a wonderfully digressive exploration of cinema in general and European cinema in particular; of how we try to understand what we cherish; and of how we try to fathom — and realize — our deepest wishes. Magnificently unpredictable, frequently hilarious (and, surely, one of the most unusual books ever written about cinema), Zona is thoroughly enthralling and thought-provoking from first to last — even if you have not seen the film.

"Synopsis" by , There is no other writer at work today like the award-winning Geoff Dyer. Here he embarks on an investigation into Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, the masterpiece of cinema that has haunted him since he first saw it thirty years ago.
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