Zuleika Dobson
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Zuleika Dobson

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  2,196 ratings  ·  136 reviews
"Zuleika Dobson is a highly accomplished and superbly written book whose spirit is farcical," said E. M. Forster. "It is a great work--the most consistent achievement of fantasy in our time . . . so funny and charming, so iridescent yet so profound."

Originally published in 1911, Max Beerbohm's sparklingly wicked satire concerns the unlikely events that occur when a femme f...more
Published 1917 by Boni & Liveright (first published 1911)
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Mike Puma

My, my, my, my, my.

Not one for the casual reader.

Briefly: My, my, my, my, my.

Less briefly: A tale told in high register, of arrogance and honor, the fine lines between conflicting emotions, irony, Oxford University, the righteous and the self-righteous, the femme fatale, fantasy meeting reality, anticipatory metafiction—wondrously frustrating and frequently comic, keep a dictionary at hand (a good one). Cormac McCarthy meets Jane Austen, or Bartleby, the Scrivener in extremis.

Prophetically: Mor

Zuleika Dobson is one of the most extraordinary and eccentric works of literature I’ve come across. Published a few years before the outbreak of World War I, its comic deployment of Greek Mythology intermixed with a generally light-hearted satiric hypostatization of an ebbing Edwardian society seems at once both a fitting sendoff as well as a peculiar graveside eulogy to a world which after the four cataclysmic years of the war would forever be obscured by the mammoth spectacle of carnage that f...more
Nov 16, 2012 Evan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Veteran readers, and people wishing to complete the Modern Library Top 100 novels list
This is, without doubt, one of the most remarkable novels in the English language. There really is nothing else like it, neither in the style in which it is hewn nor in its odd blend of gentility and pitch black satire and playful authorial first-person flights of fancy. And it's hardly likely that a more frivolous book has ever been written so well. The book is overwritten not to a fault, but to its credit. The dazzling turning of the phrase is Beerbohm's great strength. Every sentence is a mar...more
Sherwood Smith
Beerbohm was famous during his era for his witty, airy essays and short works of various types. I believe this was his only novel.

There were a number of novels about femme fatales* during that era, after Benson's Dodo, and Hope's (much more witty and readable) Dolly Dialogues--and at the serious end, Henry James' various lapidary, even microscopic looks at females who destroyed men's lives--but this one was meant to be satire. Zuleika, born poor, was an unhappy governess, ignorant and uninterest...more
What a strange book. I found it difficult to get through, despite its short length and its occasional brilliance (some would, I guess, say consistent brilliance).

Written in an overwrought style that parodies the pomposity and bloviation of academese, yet studded with a few true gems (I thought, when I read it the first time, that the line "Death cancels all engagements" was quoting something, but it actually appears to be a Beerbohm original), Zuleika Dobson follows the titular heroine as she.....more
carl  theaker
The advisors who put this book on the Modern Library Top 100 should be taken out and shot!

The fact that the Modern Library had to recently print this edition, otherwise no one would have ever found it, shows its obscurity (now available at your local used bookstore). I mean no one reads Ulysses and you can find that anywhere.

A tale of the beautiful, up from the working class Zuleika, granddaughter of the Oxford dean, who visits the college and has everyone fall in love with her.

This satire of...more
This is an oddity. It was Beerbohm's only novel and is a satire of university life at Oxford in the very early twentieth century. There is no need to worry about spoilers, the book does that for you very near the beginning. Most of the characters are as shallow as puddles. There are bursts of magic realism occasional ghosts, Greek gods and lots of style with no depth.
The story is about a young woman who is very beautiful; she has a successful conjuring act (although she is not very good at it)....more
Maybe the way to be a successful writer is to write one really fantastic novel and then that's it. It worked for Harper Lee with To Kill a Mockingbird. And it worked for Max Beerbohm with Zuleika Dobson which made it's way onto the Modern Library Top 100 List. It's not just a list comprised of boring dead white guys. Some of them are actually pretty good it seems.

The title character is this real hot tamale who arrives in Oxford to visit her grandfather, the Warden of the college. In the short ti...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a highly-entertaining farce. The humor is anything but subtle.
On another small table stood Zuleika's library. Both books were in covers of dull gold. On the back of one cover BRADSHAW, in beryls, was encrusted; on the back of the other, A.B.C. GUIDE, in amethysts, beryls, chrysoprases, and garnets.
I could not miss that her "library" contained all of two books. Not being British, I missed that the two books were railway guides.

I may have missed some other wit as well, but even 100 years...more
Charles Matthews
My copy of Zuleika Dobson was given to me by a fellow graduate student on the occasion of our graduation. I haven't read it since then. In 1998 a panel commissioned by the Modern Library called it one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century -- No. 59 to be exact. Whether it's a better novel than The Moviegoer (60), The Catcher in the Rye (64), The House of Mirth (69), or The Adventures of Augie March (81), I can't say.

In truth, I think it misleading to call Zuleika Dobson a novel. It has les...more
Reading online at DailyLit.

"Death cancels all engagements," in this morbidly funny satire of undergraduate life at Oxford. When a beautiful magician swears she can love no man susceptible to her charms she sets off a dangerous taste for suicide among the college boys.

Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
I embarked on this expecting it to be uproariously funny, along the lines of Stella Gibbons or Wodehouse and found it to be...not so much. A bit too long, with characters I longed to part company with. There are some amusing moments with the Duke, but overall, a slog.
This is satire. It has to be. I just thought it sounded like an interesting story and I needed a book title that started with Z for a challenge I was participating in. I had come across the author’s name and mention of the book title in an editorial I had read somewhere and added it to my TBR list. I had even looked at a portion of the copy (I realized it later, when I got to that place in the story.)

The author claims, in 1946, that it was not written as a satire. He said he had written it as a...more
Mark Harding
This novella is very difficult to constructively talk about to anyone who hasn’t read it. Not because of plot spoilers - there is hardly any plot - but because of joke spoilers. The book is super-arch and hyper-camp. Pretty much every paragraph has a classical reference and at least one joke. The only reason to read the book is for the style and jokes, and if I quote one, I’ll be spoiling a good joke if someone reads the book.

So, I’ll say the book is f-ing brilliant, I’ll outline the story and c...more
I read this about two years ago and forgot to make a note of it. I am now reminded of it as a couple of threads from the past month come together; Max Beerbohm was part of the late 19th century London literary and artistic milieu in which Henry James found himself immersed but not quite at ease, feeling, among other things, that Oscar Wilde and John Addington Symonds ought to have kept their urges decently under wraps. James was an established older generation contributor to Aubrey Beardsley's T...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called literary "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #41: Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm (1911)

The story in a nutshell:
Originally published in 1911, Max Beerbohm's novella-sized Zuleika Dobson is in act...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Max Beerbohm, equal parts gifted artist and writer delivered a time capsule of Oxford circa 1910. The characters are drawn deeply, defined by their timeless traits such as vanity, insouciance, youth and passion.
Beerbohm's writing is strikingly modern, he occasionally breaks the third wall and speaks directly to the reader. His humor is often laugh out loud funny and endearing without ever being schmaltzy. There is nothing stiff about this British book, many characters suffer from a certain rigi...more
The Chestertonian (Sarah G)
Quite funny tale of a deadly woman who attracts universal adoration from all young men, but who can love no man but the man who does not love her. Tragedy ensues. The story is told with elegant wit and outrageous neglect of the rules of probability--altogether amusing.

I wish a professor would use this quotation as his email signature: "Generations of undergraduates had said that Oxford would be all very well but for the dons. Do you suppose that the dons had had no answering sentiment?"
Sur Cur Lengel
An interesting book by Beerbohm but I'd never know exactly on which shelf to place it:

a treatise on manners and vanity,
an absurdity,
a science fiction novel because of the speaking apparitions, the symbolic owls and the moody pearls,
a study on religion concerning self-will and the Olympian gods,
a farce,
a love story,
a mockery of fashion, speech and nationality (especially the Scots),
or just an author grinning like mad, putting us on and and writing out of pique.
While reading this book, I kept thinking of two quotes from the 20th century -- first, Andy Warhol's famous declaration that "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes," and conceptual artist Jenny Holzer's observation from one of her text-based projects: "Dying for love is beautiful but stupid."

I think Zuleika Dobson suffers from the fact that modern readers cannot read it from a 1911 viewpoint. In a world filled with people who are famous despite their mediocrity -- and somet...more
I seem to be in a deep lull on my quest to complete the Modern Library Top 100 - as the last 3 books I've read from the list have been fairly poor. This was no different. I liked the beginning, but once you got the idea that the plot was so narrow, it lost its lustre and just seemed boring and too long. Even though the length wasn't an issue, it just took too long to get to the end and wasn't all that satisfying.
Zuleika Dobson - lady prestidigitator and Helen of Troy reincarnate - arrives at the Oxford train station one afternoon, and over the next few days wreaks unfathomable havoc and destruction, almost without trying.

I found her story equal parts hilarious and annoying, fascinatingly experimental, self-aware, disturbing, claustrophobic, and beautiful. In other words, there's no simple way to slap 3 stars on this puppy and move on. On the one hand it's a novel of manners, quintessentially British, on...more
Francis Bruynseels
Bought the 1952 penguin edition printed in 1967 secondhand in fairly good condition in Paris for 1.50 euros, based on the strong recommendation in Novels M Seymour Smith 1982. So this has been consummated after a long preparation.

It was certainly worth the wait, I should have read it sooner, but this is the first time I have come across a copy of the book.

I read it at about ten pages a day on the metro and it is rather battered now. It was really the second half that I enjoyed more; the humour m...more
Caleb Liu
Zuleika Dobson gives new meaning to the word "heart-breaker". She is an absolute beauty whom every single Oxford undergraduate falls for, apparently. I loved the very British wit pervading throughout the novel. I also loved finding quite a number of obscure words that are no longer commonly used - I made a note of them somewhere but the list has disappeared.
I was hoping I would like this, but I didn't expect to like it so so much. The dark humor of the novel, its classical references, and the random magic realism that popped up here and there all made it an enjoyable read. I can't believe I never even heard of the book until a few months ago.
James Lundy
Mar 27, 2008 James Lundy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Monty Python and live in their mother's basement
Is this a clever book? Yes. Is this a great book? No. I don't appreciate when a book crosses from comedy to farce. Ok, someone like Oscar Wilde could pull that off in a believable way. But when a character study goes this far over the edge I say TOO MUCH!
Nathan Long
I feel obligated to state that, if you are the kind of person who reads entirely for plot, it might not be worthwhile to read my review. I don't feel like marking my spoilers and I'm going to go about putting them wherever I please.

I also feel obligated to state that, if you are the kind of person who reads entirely for plot, it might not be worthwhile to read Zuleika Dobson, or an Oxford Love Story.

If you don't come into Zuleika Dobson with an analytic eye, it seems to be boring, nonsensical an...more
What a find! I had never even heard of this book. Enchanting, charming, quirky, laugh out loud funny, this book is sublime. I slowed down to read it because I did not want it to end. Max Beerbohm you are a genius. I didn't know what was going to happen until I turned to the last page. Every two pages there was some plot twist.

This is a satirical take on all the sappy, ridiculous love stories (twilight, anyone?) that have always been written and will continue ad infinitum.

The set-up: Zuleika is...more
Aug 08, 2011 Veronica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
I’ve a new author to add to my ‘must read more of’ list and his name is Sir Max Beerbohm. I would bow before this genius whose masterful skills I am in awe of yet I suppose he’d laugh and tell me to stop with such nonsense. He’s the real deal, the whole enchilada, the write stuff, etc. Enough gushing, on with the review.

Imagine the vainglorious woman so self-involved as to be blinded to reality. Add an arrogant and intentionally unavailable young man, a splash of humor and impeccably timed story...more
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All About Books: Week 40 - Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm 6 20 Jun 26, 2014 01:28AM  
  • Studs Lonigan
  • The Old Wives' Tale
  • The Wapshot Chronicle
  • Loving
  • The Way of All Flesh
  • A Dance to the Music of Time: 4th Movement
  • The Ginger Man
  • Parade's End
  • A High Wind in Jamaica
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (The Growth Trilogy, #2)
  • The Death of the Heart
  • The Golden Bowl
  • U.S.A.
  • Point Counter Point
  • Augustus Carp, Esq. By Himself Being The Autobiography Of A Really Good Man
  • Tobacco Road
  • The Alexandria Quartet  (The Alexandria Quartet #1-4)
  • Scoop
Sir Henry Maximilian "Max" Beerbohm was an English essayist, parodist and caricaturist.
More about Max Beerbohm...
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“For people who like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing they like.” 22 likes
“One is taught to refrain from irony, because mankind does tend to take it literally. In the hearing of the gods, who hear all, it is conversely unsage to make a simple and direct statement. So what is one to do? The dilema needs a whole volume to itself.” 1 likes
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