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Zuleika Dobson

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  3,611 Ratings  ·  247 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 fatale
Paperback, 252 pages
Published September 14th 1998 by Modern Library (first published 1911)
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Mike Puma
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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

Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Warwick by: Anna
An exquisite Edwardian oddity – a sort of magic-realist proto-campus-novel about paranoid sexual fantasy, as related by Beau Brummel or Oscar Wilde.

Our eponymous heroine is a personification of feminine desirability – ‘the toast of two hemispheres’, she has already, before the novel begins, ‘ranged in triumphal nomady’ around the capitals of Europe; Paris falls prostrate at her feet, Madrid throws a vast bullfight in her honour, the Grand Duke of Petersburg falls in love with her, and the Pope l
Mar 09, 2009 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
Sherwood Smith
Sep 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Dec 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 11, 2014 marked it as to-read
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..."
Jacob Appel
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Zuleika Dobson is one of those rare, brilliant, unclassifiable novels (think Tristram Shandy or Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner) that succeeds against all odds, drawing upon a rather implausible premise and peppering the narrative with seemingly haphazard intrusions. The language proves so elevated (for comic effect) that even the most devoted lexicologist stands to expand his or her vocabulary. The references often grasp at the obscure -- although I confess my A ...more
Oct 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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 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).
Amy Vedder
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, satire
Beerbohm's only novel is a satire of university life at Oxford in the very early twentieth century. I was impressed by the vividly characters and the depth of the satire. It's not easy to find good satire books for the lack of demand because satire is not as popular a genre as many others.
A young beautiful woman visits her grandfather who is warden of an Oxford college. Everyone at the college falls in love with her, except one whom she falls in love with. The book is a very different kind of hu
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, academia, fantasy
I am giving Zuleika Dobson four stars as it proved a suitable distraction from the ongoing Brexit fiasco. It reminded me of a black-dyed meringue - sweet, light, fluffy, and very dark. The story is essentially all about death, suicide in fact, while also being a light-hearted magical realist Oxford farce. An interesting and ununusual combination. Although I read the illustrated edition, I must say the pictures didn't do much for me. They were charming enough, but chopped up the text is a rather ...more
Charles Matthews
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Overall I did enjoy the book. The writing is good and I thought of giving this at least 4 stars...but somehow I changed my mind, and I'm not really sure why. Although, it is a book much different from what I've read before. I also liked the references on the Greek Mythology. What's obvious is that Beerbohm has his own distinguishing style.
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 26, 2015 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
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.
Lucy Barnhouse
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolute gem. I've no idea why it took me so long to read this. A send-up of academe, of classism, of romantic delusions, but with a great fondness for genuine romance, and for academic seductions. The language is ornate, effervescent, erudite, delightful; there are hilarious ghosts; there are sentient statues. I read a library copy, but plan to buy my own, to cheer my afternoons and to press upon friends who've not yet read it.
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Jason Pettus
Mar 19, 2010 rated it liked it
(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
Shinjini Dey

This would have been thoroughly enjoyable if I wasn’t the kind of person who eavesdrops at conversations and compulsively watches an item number only to wince at every ‘problematic’ second. The most grating part of Moby Dick wasn’t the encyclopaedic block quote(s) but the section that makes a go of producing what we would call universality – the ‘Hindoo’ and the ‘Scotsman’ and the ‘Chinaman’ + 15 other nationalities each having two whole lines of defining dialogue in a section comprised whol
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, fiction
How is it possible to regard a work about the mass suicide of Oxford undergraduates -- all for unrequited love of a decorous young woman -- as a comedy? Yet Max Beerbohm has done it with The Illustrated Zuleika Dobson.

Miss Zuleika Dobson, the granddaughter of the Warden of Judas College at Oxford [sic], turns the heads of all the young males at Oxford, most particularly that of the young Duke of Dorset, the leader of his college. Zuleika is one of those females who cannot approve of any male wh
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
Jan 20, 2012 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
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Renee M
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Zuleika Dobson, full title Zuleika Dobson, or, an Oxford love story, is a 1911 novel by Max Beerbohm. This has got to be one of the strangest books I have ever read. It is so "different" that even though it has been weeks since I finished it I still remember it quite well, that doesn't happen often. According to Wikipedia:

"Sir Henry Maximilian "Max" Beerbohm (24 August 1872 – 20 May 1956) was an English essayist, parodist, and caricaturist. He first became known in the 1890s as a dandy and a hum
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Sir Henry Maximilian "Max" Beerbohm was an English essayist, parodist and caricaturist.
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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.” 4 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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