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Zuleika Dobson

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,971 Ratings  ·  185 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
Published 1917 by Boni & Liveright (first published 1911)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike Puma
Jun 08, 2013 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-author, 2013

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

Apr 17, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
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 it was amazing  ·  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
It didn't take me long to realize my leg was being pulled. This is a satire, a farce really, of Edwardian era life at Oxford University. Beerbohm is poking fun at everyone and everything. Zuleika (pronounced leek, not like) is a femme fatale as striking and deadly as Becky Sharp, although much more naive. She lays waste to the entire undergraduate population of Oxford, and at the end is looking for the train schedule to Cambridge. Comedy with a touch of darkness, this novel is well written and v ...more
Sherwood Smith
Sep 15, 2009 Sherwood Smith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: satire
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
Jul 08, 2013 Drew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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..
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
Jul 04, 2015 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
My goal in life is to someday look up a book and find out that El hasn't already read it.

Lauren: "I recommend this book to anyone who liked Heathers."

Me: "So should I just whip it out, or..."
Oct 15, 2009 El rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Josiah
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
Oct 12, 2015 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This scathingly witty satire of Edwardian society in Oxford University is well worth reading. Beerbohm always has a sharp view of his society and culture, and this was the only novel he wrote, amongst all his shorter writings. Master of the aperçu, Beerbohm plays with language itself in service to his often jaundiced vision of social interaction, the result being highly entertaining prose with insightful commentary.

Zuleika Dobson is simply the most beautiful young woman around. Invited for a vis
Mar 29, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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).
Jun 27, 2015 Laysee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The best way to read Zuleika Dobson is to suspend disbelief and to put one's brain in parking mode. If this is satire, it is of mean quality.

Zuleika Dobson is supposedly a comic story about a femme fatale. The Duke of Dorset and hundreds of Oxford undergraduates killed themselves for love of Zuleika, a vain and self-serving young lady who thrived on self-display and the swooning admiration of young men.

The tone of this classic was playful and snobbish. The story deliberately poked fun at preten
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
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.
Sep 12, 2014 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 31, 2013 Cherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Renee M
May 02, 2015 Renee M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very funny. Very dark. I do so enjoy the satirical, cynical, witty wonderful voices of the Edwardians. Oscar Wilde and Saki have long been my favorites, so I was, at least in part, prepared for the full-on, no hold barred, over the top, overwritten hilarity that is Zuleika Dobson. Definitely a book which could only have been written/published before the Great Wars, in that twilight when such devastation seemed beyond reality or relegated to the long past. I'm sure that much of the Oxford/British ...more
Elli (The Bibliophile)
I thought this was an interesting novel! Quite funny and absurd at times, and the ending was actually pretty shocking-in a good way! I would say this is more of a 3.5/5 star read however. Though the writing was good, I found the novel dragged on a bit even though it was only around 250 pages long.
Sara Steger
Dec 12, 2015 Sara Steger rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sara by: book group
Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson is a humorous satire, more in the vein of Oscar Wilde than Jonathan Swift. As the book proceeds from one ludicrous scenario to another, I felt less involved with the characters than with the pitiful realities that they are meant to deride. Beerbohm jabs at everything he touches, particularly the dandy and Oxford institutions, but he does it with a light and almost affectionate style.

I fail to see how anyone could find the character of Zuleika charming, but I am told th
Mark Harding
Feb 12, 2011 Mark Harding rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2011 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 []. 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
Sep 11, 2008 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, humor
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 24, 2014 Lemar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, novel, brit-lit
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
Kai Coates
My opinion of this book oscillated between "This is sorta funny," "So bored," and finally "Wow! Brilliant!" I think I missed a lot of the inside jokes about Oxford, but there is definitely enough mockery of youth's folly to appeal to a wide scope of readers. Some of my favorite parts were when Beerbohm inserted himself into the prose, which I think may be what helped land this book on The Modern Library's Top 100. It reminded me of Vanity Fair in tone, although it pales in comparison.
Miriam Cihodariu
Jan 27, 2016 Miriam Cihodariu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Keep an open mind and consider the times in which the book was written. Other than that, there is a delicious irony throughout the book, from the juicy dialogues to the descriptions themselves.


"My beauty! How I hate it!" sighed Zuleika. "Still, here it is, and I must needs make the best of it.” (p 134)

„One has never known a good man to whom dogs were not dear; but many of the best women have no such fondness. You will find that the woman who is really kind to dogs is always o
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
Sep 15, 2009 Sur Cur Lengel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Sir Henry Maximilian "Max" Beerbohm was an English essayist, parodist and caricaturist.
More about Max Beerbohm...

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“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.” 3 likes
“Our hero's unreasoning rage was fed by a not unreasonable jealousy. It was clear to him that Zuleika had forgotten his existence. To-day, as soon as he had killed her love, she had shown him how much less to her was his love than the crowd's. And now again it was only the crowd she cared for. He followed with his eyes her long slender figure as she threaded her way in and out of the crowd, sinuously, confidingly, producing a penny from one lad's elbow, a threepenny-bit from between another's neck and collar, half a crown from another's hair, and always repeating in that flute-like voice of hers: "Well, this is rather queer!” 3 likes
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