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Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857861662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857861665
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.3 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,123 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: www.geoffdyer.com

Photographer: Jason Oddy

Product Description


One of my favourite of all contemporary writers. (Alain de Botton)

Reading Dyer is akin to the sudden elation and optimism you feel when you make a new friend, someone as silly as you but cleverer too, in whose company you know you will travel through life more vagrantly, intensely, joyfully. (Daily Telegraph)

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, emphatically and eloquently. (David Shields, author of REALITY HUNGER)

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 prises it open and gets its glum majesty. As a result of this book, I know the film better, and care about Tarkovsky even more. (Mark Cousins, author of THE STORY OF FILM)

I loved this book. How can it possibly work - a book describing a film, more or less shot by shot? But it triumphantly does - i actually felt suspense, and revelation. And i'd never laugh at Stalker, but i did laugh all the way through this. (Tessa Hadley, author of THE LONDON TRAIN)

A restless polymath and an irresistibly funny storyteller, he is adept at fiction, essay and reportage, but happiest when twisting all three into something entirely his own. (New Yorker)

A true original . . . [Dyer] never ceases to surprise, disturb and delight. (William Boyd)

A national treasure. (Zadie Smith)

Perennially readable and wonderfully difficult to second-guess (Bookseller)

Zona is penned with great linguistic flair, in a non-academic, conversational tone... It turns Zona from film criticism into a stranger, more amusing study and the section on why their journey is like the journey of writing a book is both intellectually neat and rather touching. (Independent on Sunday)

Dyer is the perfect man for the job of unpicking the complex mysteries of Tarkovsky's Zone. He has a rare talent for writing about high-minded concerns with disarming simplicity. (Observer)

A must-read for those who love the offbeat. (Prospect)

Zona is written from a position of undiminished wonder, renewing our faith in the possibilities of cinema and reminding us of the importance of living attentive lives. Saying that Dyer tests our patience is a compliment of the highest order. (We Love This Book)

Like the wind that batters Tarkovsky's desolate landscape, Dyer's argument bloweth where is liseth and takes us into unexpected personal areas...[Zona] duplicates the floating, restless way we watch those films that we love deeply. (Literary Review)

Dyer, ever the postmodernist, thrives on the futility of his critical mission...and he duly unleashes a battle between footnotes and central text, relentlessly peppering his Tarkovskian plot précis with beautiful biographical notes. (The Times)

[Geoff Dyer] can be laugh out loud funny...[Zona] is a work which generates meanings rather than exhausts them by specificity. The loveliness of Dyer's book is that he could write it again in a decade and it would be different again. (Scotland on Sunday)

No writer can flex and stretch in digressive prose more congenially than Dyer...Zona, like Stalker, is a narrative without focus. It shilly-shallies aimlessly but also pricelessly. Therapy for Dyer, bliss for the reader. (The Sunday Telegraph)

This is classic Dyer territory - an extended, near-formless work of art. (Word Magazine)

This is a rigorous book, and one that celebrates properly a lifelong devotion to an artistic masterpiece. But it is also entertaining. As such, it is almost revolutionary in form. (Financial Times)

Zona is the rare book that respects the mystery of a film without feeling obliged to dismantle it (Evening Standard)

[Geoff Dyer] shows how writing about film can deliver a sense of adventure. His book offers the satisfaction of a meditation that inhales a much larger world (Nick James Sight and Sound)

Throughout, the writing is of an aphoristic grace and concision, suffused with humour and a delight to read (Ian Thomson The Independent)

It's Dyer's ability at moments like this to make pilgrims of his readers and to lead them on a journey in search of truths about love and about the nature of happiness that make Zona such an exhilarating achievement (Sukhdev Sanhu The Guardian)

Doesn't so much inject fun into the film's eerie Soviet glamour as find comedy in the gulf between us and our objects of desire (Boyd Tonkin Independent 2013-03-08)

An investigation into everything from faith to knapsacks. Therapy for Dyer, bliss for the reader (The Daily Telegraph 2013-03-09)

Dyer lifts Tarkovsky up to the level of a Homer in the sense that Stalker encompasses history, myth and a fantastical journey that only art can communicate (Noovella)

This year's best book on cinema (The Observer)

Book Description

Ever wondered where your deepest desires might lead?

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Leyla Sanai on 11 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Zona - Geoff Dyer
Canongate £16.99
Reviewed by Leyla Sanai

A gambler trying to guess the topic of a future Geoff Dyer book would always be destined to lose. Not only is Dyer versatile in form (novels, novellas, essays, non-fiction books), but his range of chosen topics has been so eclectic to date that predicting the next would be impossible.

As far as non-fiction is concerned, Dyer's panoramic sweep has included the sacred - *history, literature, photography, jazz - as well as the profane - sex, drugs, Burning Man. Speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival he said in 2010 that the conventional notion that one had to be an expert in a subject before writing about it was one he rebelled against, and that with some of his chosen subjects, he embarked on writing the book with an interest in his topic but limited detailed knowledge, allowing the research process to educate him while he wrote the book.

Dyer was certainly very knowledgeable about the iconic Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 art-house movie Stalker before he started writing this book, having seen it repeatedly over the more than thirty years since its release. The first time he saw it he didn't enjoy it that much, but its slow, haunting scenes lodged in his mind, and he was compelled to see it again and again.

Stalker is a typical Tarkovsky film, slow, mysterious, allegorical. The central story involves a guide, the Stalker, taking a Writer and a Professor to a forbidden zone where, it is rumoured, one's deepest desires come true.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Robertson on 25 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Humour is not a quality that you associate with Tarkovsky's films, but this book is very funny. Like Berio, in the third movement of his Sinfonia, taking a ride on the third movement Mahler's Second symphony to produce his own (humorous) collage of quotations, Jeff Dyer writes out, almost shot by shot, Tarkovsky's film Stalker. (There is some scope for comparison between Mahler and Tarkovsky in their use of recognisable motifs which occur throughout their works.) However, writing about a film allows even more freedom than making another film might allow (the quotation above comes from Chris Marker, who made a documentary about the film maker, using quotations from Tarkovsky's oeuvre).
In Dyer's case it allows him to reminisce about his first acquaintance with Stalker before the days of DVD, the weeks of waiting for a cinema to screen it, making a VHS copy of its broadcast, just in case there would never be another opportunity, at the same time as commanding us to watch it in projection, not on a small TV screen. He also goes into the appalling list of hazards and personal rivalries which Tarkovsky had to overcome in order to complete it. Multiple references to other Tarkovsky films enable him to eke out a reading of the film, which does not explain it, but sends you back to the film itself (to the VHS copy I made from the broadcast!), with a heightened awareness of its qualities.
As with the best criticism, this relatively short book, for such a long film, takes us closer to the work, teasing out its characteristics and the underlying reasons behind its choices with humour and humility (why the jeep, rather than a Mini Cooper!).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. V. Thurgood on 19 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If this book makes you go and watch Tarkovsky's film Stalker, and Dyer would certainly want you to watch it in a cinema and not on DVD, then Dyer's book is half-justified.

This book is a candid but self-regarding offloading posing as a commentary on a film. It will please Dyer's fans but is probably more important because of the way it raises questions about the end of the culture that spawned the film and Dyer's appreciation of it. We (I am 45) did not appreciate the freedoms we had until we lost them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. Philip Harrison on 18 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
I went to see Stalker when it opened in London, at the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street. At the end of the movie, the audience stood in respectful silence and began that polite shuffle towards the exit, until one elderly gentleman turned to his companion and said, 'Well, I didn't understand any of that.'

This book is about Dyer's understanding of Stalker, the film by Tarkovsky that he has watched again and again. Dyer writes a response to each scene, every action in the film, finding seeds of the future in the Chernobyl-like zone, identifying motifs and ideas that became part of the language of cinema, and responding on a personal level to the debates within the dialogue about the zone and what it represents.

So this is not an explanation of the film - nor does it claim to be - but a musing on the muse of Tarkovsky, a director who is revealed to be of his place and his time, but whose creation echoes backwards and forwards, resonating with anyone with a love of cinema.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Fletcher on 5 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Somewhere, there must be a subject that Geoff Dyer can't write an interesting book about, in which case I would really like to know what it is. In the meantime, we must be grateful for books like Zona, which takes an unpromising subject (one of Tarkovsky's most difficult films, which is saying something) and delivers a sublime meditation on, well, pretty much everything.
If you have seen the film, you'll find your appreciation of it enormously enhanced, and you'll certainly want to go back and watch it again (I did). But even if you haven't, there's so much entertaining and enlightening extra material, not just about the background and influence of the film, but about Dyer's own life and opinions, that I guarantee you'll want to read the book again. As well as seeing the film, of course.
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