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Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  1,973 ratings  ·  372 reviews
A wildly original novel of erotic fulfillment and spiritual yearning.

Every two years the international art world descends on Venice for the opening of the Biennale. Among them is Jeff Atman–a jaded and dissolute journalist–whose dedication to the cause of Bellini-fuelled partygoing is only intermittently disturbed by the obligation to file a story. When he meets the spell
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Pantheon (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

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'Dazzling', 'wonderfully entertaining', 'extraordinarily reflective' 'Dyer can write as beautifully as Lawrence and Proust', are just a small sample of the critics' comments from the inside cover of this book. So why have I given it only two stars? Yesterday, when I finished it, my review might have read as follows: 'I have nothing to say about this book because I am unwilling to spend any more of my precious time trying to think of something to write that won't be too harsh and dismissive.' Ins ...more
To be perfectly honest, I'm still not sure what to make of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, but I know that I liked it. It seems to be a novel that illuminates how opposites not only are able to coexist but absolutely must exist to define the other. This book feels like a journey, for more reasons than the exotic locations, and what's more, it's a journey where it's perfectly fine to lose one's way a bit, to not always completely follow where it goes, or to suddenly be perfectly in tune with t ...more
When I was younger, I'd often go to someone's cottage (everyone knew someone who had a cottage on the Finger Lakes) on July 3 for what was called the Ring of Fire: everyone with a cottage around the lake would make a big bonfire, big enough to see from across the lake. This was also an excuse to get rip-roaringly drunk and play lawn games and swim in the lake and zoom around in boats. Not that I was getting drunk; I was just a kid. My whole point here though is that these parties were inevitably ...more
Tim Meneely

At first, Dyer’s prose didn't stick to my ribs, it stuck in my throat.
In the end, I find Dyer's style a bit too pleased with its own cuteness (are middle-aged men called twee?). If Martin Amis, or even Hornby, wrote himself into a travel diary (in the vein of 'Under the Tuscan Sun'), this is what it would be.

“Jeff” is a writer who hates writing, a Londoner who hates London, an art aficionado professionally bored with the art world. You would think it’s right up my alley.

The good: Prose with g
Technically, this is my first Dyer and I liked it. That, in itself, would make it unlikable for an average reader.

The book is really two separate novellas: the first is the story of Jeff Atman, an aimless middle rung journalist in London who is assigned to cover the Venice Binneale to a ‘scoop’ interview around a story of prized nude photograph of a singer?

The action moves to very ‘otter’ than ever before Venice. Jeff, portrayed as somewhat of an outsider at the international art scene, trudges
This is one of those books that makes me feel stupid. It’s made up of two interrelated novellas, the first of which follows an English reporter named Jeff as he covers the Biennale in Venice; the second finds a nameless English reporter, possibly the same man, losing himself in Varanasi. Both halves have moments of beauty, of occasionally wonderfully incisive description and even humor, and both also have their share of extreme WTF. The Venice portion, in particular, is full of lengthy and highl ...more
Oh, another guy book, but so freewheeling and acutely observed that there was no putting it down. Crucial in the Varanasi section was a paragraph admitting that the character lived in a special traveler/tourist/hippie space and had no real access to the intellectual and artistic life of the Indian city. So glad to see someone else citing Mary McCarthy's Venice Observed, and to read the conscious and loving echoes of Thomas Mann, Somerset Maugham, Vedas.
And I was speculating what the dude version of Eat Pray Live would look like. Actually, he never made it to Indonesia, so maybe it was just Eat, Pray?
I didn't enjoy it as much as Dyer's Lawrence book ('Out of Sheer Rage', which I snickered my way through) but still a good read. Dyer doesn't write 'plot' novels (based on the two I've read and also what he said in person himself when I went to see him talk recently so there). You kind of follow him along, seeing what he sees, thinking what he thinks. This books is in two parts - the first set in Venice, the second in Varanasi, India. Surprise! They are narrated by different characters, both are ...more
James Murphy
Having read Dyer's nonfiction before and aware of what a terrific writer he is, I'd been eager to begin this novel. But it took me a few days to get into it. I was confused by the first part, Venice, unable to decide what he was trying to do. But almost immediately after beginning the 2d section, Varanasi, I began to form an understanding and saw that the novel soars. It seems to be about duality. And about transformation. Dyer has written the 2 parts as the 2 sides of a coin. Venice is about li ...more
I was disappointed by this book. All the reviews I've read have been glowing. I was immediately put off by the imprecision of the language. A small criticism: one of the main characters is an American woman, but she uses subtle Britishisms, like ending sentences with "isn't it?" and saying "straight away" instead of "right away." Maybe it's petty to complain about, but I feel like the author has an obligation to at least have an American friend read it and catch those things.

Anyway, this book c
Nathan Oates
Three quarters of the way through this book I stopped to ask myself the question writers work hard to keep far from their readers' minds: why am I reading this book? Unlike most conventional novels, which aim merely to get the reader through to the end (a difficult task), Dyer's book provokes, even encourages this question. The "novel" is in fact two short novels that may, or may not, involve the same not-quite young freelance journalist, first during a trip to Venice, and second the Indian city ...more
A strange and fascinating novel of sex and death set in two very different but curiously connected locations of Venice and Varanasi. The Venice section is written almost in the manner of Brett Easton Ellis involving as it does much name dropping brand logos drinking and drug taking interspersed with beautiful glimpses of the light and waterways of Venice. There is towards the end of the section an elaborate set piece in which Jeff views Tintoretto's great ceiling paintings through a mirror on wh ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Angie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Angie by: Very Short List
Geoff Dyer has such an interesting way of seeing the world and expressing it in a clever way. It really is like 2 books. The only thing connecting the two is the main character, Jeff.
Some of my favorite lines include:
"Dying is an art like everything else. We do it exceptionally well. We do it so it looks real." and that is how the author covers his grey-like Sylvia Plath
Also after much waiting for so many things, "At what point would the longing for things to be over be over so that he could res
Alex Roberts
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
After reading reviews of this novel, I understand that it is acclaimed as a high brow philosophical story. Unfortunately, it must have been too high brow for me because I did not enjoy this book at any level. It is actually 2 separate stories thinly linked by a couple of sentences that compares the similiarties between Venice and Varansai and an unsupported assumption that the unnamed narrator in the 2nd story is Jeff from the first story.

The first story is about journalists and artists attendi
Jay Daze
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Two novellas that don't really go together comprise this oddly-named book by Geoff Dyer. In Jeff in Venice, we witness the rather depressing scene of journalists and art critics gathering in that wet Italian city for the Biennale where they drink themselves silly (as if they need the help) and search for sex (successfully, as Mr. Dyer apparently likes to write about it).

Things slow down (or are less racy, at least) as we head to India for some travel writing about dirt, poverty, disease, and Hin
I'm still not sure which half of this book I like better. Both halves, though different, each have something interesting about them. The interplay between the two is the most interesting, but there are interesting things to appreciate about each separately. Dyer has a certain wit throughout which is always enjoyable as well. It is an odd book masquerading as a non-odd book.
Ben Dutton
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I'm in love with Geoff Dyer right now, but I can't explain why. The more he tells me about his drug-taking, aimless, despondent life, the more I like him. Maybe because he's more than what he tells me -- you can see it in the way he constructs a sentence, in his reverent echoes of other, greater authors, in his willingness to wear a dhoti on his pale, skinny Western frame and swim in the Ganges. If one weren't told that this book is a fiction, one might believe that Geoff Dyer really did these t ...more
After all the hype about this book, what with its winning some awards in Britain, and being touted as a very funny novel, I must say it rather disappoints me – but just a little.

If I compare this funny novel to, say, the one I’m reading right now, Marina Lewycka’s We Are All Made of Glue, I can’t say I was laughing as loudly.

The book is divided into two sections, and they can be so disparate that you can take them as two novellas. The first has the main character Jeff travelling to Venice to d

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is like a novel with a cleaved spine. Trying to match the two halves takes some reader effort. The first half is a third-person account which follows Jeff Atman, an anxious, unhappy freelance journalist, as he goes to Venice to cover the Biennale art show. However, as for most of the attendees, it's an excuse to party, swill some Bellinis, and see and be seen. Jeff's trip is significantly enhanced by meeting Laura, an American woman, with whom he as a Bienale-lo

Geoff Dyer is my new best friend (even though I don't even know him, I feel that I should). I was sad to see this book end. Ostensibly fiction, but half travel writing, Dyer's writing is smart, witty and clever. It made me laugh and made me ponder.

Jeff in Venice is a love story about a writer (Jeff, Geoff?) enjoying the Venice Biennial who has a love afair, the love of his life? Maybe. His description of Venice, the global art scene and the arty people who enjoy the finer things in life (in othe
Again, the more littered in praise by 'big names', and the larger the author's name on the front, I find the book disappointing.

It's a book in two halves which are, to me, in no way connected, other than the same bloke is in both of them.

The Venice half is ok, at least there's a plot (man drinks, man meets woman, man and woman have sex, do drugs and get drunk, woman leaves). In the second half of the book, in Varanasi, it's just the bloke, wandering aimlessly around, describing the filth and pe
3.75 stars (vacilated for me between 4 and 3 stars but gets better as it moves along and ends well)? Feels absolutely real, or at least feels like his non-fiction. First section is in third person, second section is in first person, yet there's no real difference in how they feel -- or maybe it's about Jeff Atman dissolving into an I and then, after pooing a lot and soaking up the Ganges, transforming into goo-headed, guru-ish egolessness (dying hair in first section, unselfconsciously dressing ...more
An interesting experiment, if ultimately little else. This book is a bit of a trick, in that it's composed of two novellas and it's alluded, rather than outright stated, that the same character occupies both, despite a P.O.V. difference and an unclear lapse in time. How you read it is ultimately up to you. It's also up to you whether you find this approach playful or cruel to your readerly sensibilities about continuity in character or form. I found it a very gusty book in many ways. The first p ...more
Geoff Dyer is one of my favorite authors, but his work is difficult to characterize. I've read nearly all of his books (own several) except the one that's a study of John Berger's essays and a new one I only recently discovered. There are the quasi travel memoirs, a more critical look at photography, a musing on jazz, as well as some fiction.

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is a novel in two parts, just like the title. Having read many stories of the author's own adventures abroad, I recognized
this book is a marvel. it goes down like the finest of wines, and leaves you giddy, giggly, and drunk on words, travel, place, self, desire, meaning, and meaninglessness. it leaves you full of questions that only lead to more questions. if you get frustrated by the lack of answers, plot, or clear themes, prepare to be frustrated. on the other hand, if you want to treat yourself to a sublime literary treat, i recommend this book most highly. it is astoundingly well written, accessibly so. i also ...more
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Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1958. He was educated at the local Grammar School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He is the author of four novels: Paris Trance, The Search, The Colour of Memory, and, most recently, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; a critical study of John Berger, Ways of Telling; five genre-defying titles: But Beautiful (winner of a 1992 Somerset Maugham Prize ...more
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“The history of sex is the history of glimpses: first ankles, then cleavage, then knees. More recently, tattoos, navel rings, tongue studs, underwear…” (p. 92).” 7 likes
“People say it's not what happens in your life that matters, it's what you think happened. But this qualification, obviously, did not go far enough. It was quite possible that the central event of your life could be something that didn't happen, or something you thought didn't happen. Otherwise there'd be no need for fiction, there'd only be memoirs and histories...” 4 likes
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