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Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi Hardcover – 7 Apr 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 7 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (7 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377371
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,558,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels and six other nonfiction books, including But Beautiful, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, and Out of Sheer Rage, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. The winner of a Lannan Literary Award, the International Centre of Photography's 2006 Infinity Award for writing on photography, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E. M. Forster Award, Dyer is a regular contributor to many publications in the UK and the US. He lives in London. For more information visit Geoff Dyer's official website:

Photographer: Jason Oddy

Product Description


"Dazzling and peculiar . . . A prodigious display of virtuosity." (Jan Morris Guardian 2009-04-04)

"Engaging and funny . . . Dyer is a witty and concise observer of landscapes: social, geographical and emotional . . . [his] eccentric charm and barbed perceptiveness will hook you to the end." (Tim Teeman The Times 2009-03-28)

"Delivered with laconic wit and an evocative sense of place, Dyer's effortlessly readable prose is shot through with psychological insight, truth and an eye for travelogue detail." (Alan Chadwick Metro 2009-04-01)

"Dyer is more than a cult writer; he's a virus, invading your system. You look at things differently, embracing the idiosyncratic, keeping the obvious at bay . . . vintage Dyer, painfully funny, slyly observant, brilliant, full of wild misery." (Lee Langley Spectator 2009-04-01)

"Dyer is a smart, witty writer..., extraordinarily reflective, perceptive and well as a fine prose stylist. He's a keen commentator on the ironies of contemporary life from the very first page." (Lionel Shiver Financial Times 2009-04-04)

"Geoff Dyer is a true original -- one of those rare voices in contemporary literature that never ceases to surprise, disturb and delight. Risky, breathtakingly candid, intellectual, cool, outrageous, laconic and sometimes shocking, Geoff Dyer is a must-read for our confused and perplexing times" (WILLIAM BOYD)

"Jeff in Venice is a love song to the pleasures of the phenomenal world, very fast and very funny . . . [Death in Varanasi] is Dyer at his very best: philosophical, astute, unstructured, oscillating between surface and depth, between the casual and the universal." (Jonathan Gibbs Independent 2009-04-03)

"Jeff in Venice is serious fiction; learned travelogue; funny, arch and sad; a cynic's ascent into redemptive love and a stoner's descent into 'Gone-Native' madness. It drips with Geoff Dyer's derelict luminosity." (DAVID MITCHELL)

"Geoff Dyer is one of my favourite of all contemporary writers. I love his sense of the absurd, his pessimism mixed with robust good cheer, his beautifully crafted sentences, his jokes and his intelligence. Jeff in Venice is a sad, funny, lyrical, furious story of an ordinary man's momentary redemption and decline. Please take the time to read it and fall under Dyer's spell." (ALAIN DE BOTTON)

"A raucous delight. Jeff in Venice is truly surprising - very funny, full of nerve, gutsy and delicious. Venice will never be the same again!" (MICHAEL ONDAATJE)

"Dyer is very funny, in both senses - sort of like a post-modern Kingsley Amis. His writing is acute and bad tempered in the great British tradition, and his prose is the equal of anyone in the country. A national treasure." (ZADIE SMITH)

"A haunting, if frequently hilarious, meditation on love and art, life and music, death and bananas, all reflected and refracted in the twinned mirror pools of Venice and Varanasi. I loved this book." (JOSHUA FERRIS)

"Riveting. I love this book. Moments of wit, humanity, and intelligence are to be found on every page here. Dyer can write as beautifully as Lawrence and Proust. I don't ever want to be without his brilliant mind to turn to." (NADEEM ASLAM)

"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. . . . A work of exceptional resonance. [Starred review.]" (Publishers Weekly 2009-01-12)

"A riddle of a novel wrapped in a two part travelogue about losing oneself . . . the writing is discursive and full of bleak, often funny observations about the more jaded intersections of art and life." (Jennifer Higgie Frieze 2009-03-01)

"Entrancing . . . [Dyer] is a writer who resists categorization, who is constantly morphing from one thing to takes talent to pull off a career like that, and Dyer has plenty of talent. His work is illusory yet real, funny but serious . . . [Jeff in Venice] is a haunted - and haunting - book." (Alex Bilmes GQ 2009-04-01)

"Raw and descriptive - this is a truly original piece of writing." (Tatler 2009-04-01)

"A haunted - and haunting - book." (GQ 2009-04-01)

"Cleverly-penned . . . affirms Dyer's place as one of Britain's most witty and original writers; the lively prose, colourful characters and at times extremely poignant descriptions making for both a riveting and really quite brilliant read." (Camilla Pia List 2009-03-19)

"Smart, provocative, often very funny, but ultimately deeply sobering, Jeff in Venice is an early contender for the most original, and the cleverest, novel of the year." (Mick Brown Daiy Telegraph 2009-03-28)

"Dyer's prose always has a hint of intimacy...Memory, language and writing aare all intricately and emotionally woven." (Mark Crees Times Literary Supplement 2009-03-27)


You'll be hooked by a playful, fictive intelligence that flickers over every page.

" (David Lovely Waterstone's Books Quarterly 2009-04-01)

"(T)he joy of his writing at its best lies in not knowing what's coming next, and in the fluent way it throws irreverence and transport together with a confessional ease that reflects the spirit of the age... In the weeks since I devoured Jeff in Venice, I don't think a day has passed without my thinking back to it." (Pico Iyer The New York Times Book Review)

"The last 20 pages approach magnificence: a virtuosic melding of style and repertoire that come together as a sort of yogic "one."" (Ted Weesner Jr. The Boston Globe)

"The English writer Geoff Dyer delights in producing books that are unique, like keys." (James Wood The New Yorker)

"Beguiling." (Metro)

"Filled with shimmering apparitions." (Observer)

"Witty, observant, unexpected." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Quite mad, it can be read poolside, roadside or mountainside: wherever you are, you'll be Lake-side." (The Observer)

"Erudite and often very funny." (The Telegraph)

"Rarely less than brilliant." (The Guardian)

"Dyer is compared to Proust, Lawrence and Kingsley Amis. The praise is deserved . . . i hadn't read such a fully realised piece of fiction for ages." (Evening Standard)

"By marrying fiction with travelogue, serious confessional with comedy, Dyer produces a heady literary package." (Independent)

"Dyer at his very best . . . philosophical, astute, unstructured, oscillating between surface and depth, between the casual and the universal." (Jonathan Gibb Independent) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

From the prize-winning author of Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
First up, Geoff Dyer is a very talented writer - he's written art criticism, WWI history, literary biography, you name it. But the book he's best know for is, obviously, the brilliantly written (and titled, it's fair to say) short story collection Yoga For people Who Can't be Bothered to Do It.

I'll be honest, I wasn't convinced that Geoff Dyer could neccesarily take his wonderful short story writing style into the novel territory - it's fair to say that he's not big on plot development and narrative arcs - and arguably this book is, in fact, two novellas. There's no real plot to speak of and yes - the two halves do have very different tones.

However, to say there's nothing connecting them is strange. I found the two narratives flowed rather wonderfully from one to the other and - maybe I'm being far too literal here - I just read it as though they were about one and the same person. Two sides of the same story, in fact.

To suggest that this book isn't memorable seems a bit strange too, as many of the scenes, particularly those in Varanasi, are beautifully evocative and hugely visual. He writes wonderfully about the pace and mood of Indian life, the weird rituals and events that pass as normal in any given day in this extraordinary city. And the character's progression (or maybe regression) is compelling and pretty heartstopping.

It's fair to say that this won't be for all the fans of Yoga... but it's nonetheless a very rewarding experience. You'll be hard placed to find such an unusual and arresting piece of writing published this year.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I heard the author interviewed on the Litopia Daily podcast. In the gap between purchasing it and reading it I heard his name mentioned almost exclusively in conjunction with superlatives. The best writer practising in English today was one of them. Like a young Kingsley Amis was another.

To say I had high hopes is an understatement.

The writing is without doubt accomplished; the perfect mix between quick and easy to read, and intelligent and poignant. I don't think it deserves either of the two monikers above, but as a writer he is certainly impressive.

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is really two books.

The first part is a third person romp through the Biennale, as journalist Jeff Atman drinks and snorts his way through parties and exhibitions and enjoys a passionate but shallow affair with American gallery director, Laura. This section is very funny, often laugh out loud in it's grotesqueness and stays on just the right side of parody or whimsy.

The second is first person, as an unnamed journalist (I assumed it is still Jeff, but I could be wrong) becomes increasingly seduced by the madness of Varanasi. There is a lingering sadness to the second part of the book, and while still funny in parts it lacks the frenetic, almost farcical nature of the first part.

Based on Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, both parts of the book borrow themes and motifs from this classic Novella- unrequited love, the personality of places, and indeed it is Venice and Varanasi that are the real main characters here. Both are lovingly described in exquisite detail, both are decaying beauties, both are facades under which there is very little substance and yet both are revered as place of spiritually and culture.

The people are secondary, as too is the plot really, and it is the spirit of the two cities, so perfectly captured, that made this book such a pleasure to read.
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Format: Paperback
To describe this book as a novel is to mislead the prospective reader. It is a book in two halves - two novellas? I'd have to say not, as there is an almost total absence of plot. Without any coherent story to follow, I was surprised that I was not more bored. I was bored, obviously, but not as much as I'd have expected from the second half, which reads like a lengthy travelogue, with almost nothing happening for over a hundred pages. I did however raise a smile at the hero's (I use the term loosely) determination to reach the ATM ahead of the queue jumpers. I continued reading because the cover (apart from announcing it as a novel) described it as `a beautiful story of erotic love and spiritual yearning'. It also said it was `playful, stylish, sensual, comic' and with this I would agree, though not with many of the other superlatives on the cover. However well written, for me, the absence of plot and characters with any depth made it an unsatisfactory read.
`Quite possibly the best living writer in Britain'? Oh dear, have all the real authors I know died?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought this was an incredibly compelling novel and vividly written. I liked the way that it was split into two separate stories and the title was a fantastic teaser, and this fact alone kept me reading through the second half of the story - I did think, however, Varanasi was lacking the same sense of desire as the first. The characters in Venice, however, were wonderfully developed and I could almost touch Laura and, furthermore, I wanted to on many occasions. For the most part then the sex was actually well written! The only sense of lacklustre with this book came from the fact that I had purchased it from a website that currently isn't contributing its fair share of tax. This has not been a pleasant chaser - one feels robbed when they have enjoyed an experience that a crook has facilitated, however enjoyable. Thus, in summary, I would recommend buying this book, certainly. However, I would strongly urge any reader to consider the outlet from which they purchase it.
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