Customer Reviews for

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 16 of 15 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Mixed

    I'm a big fan of Jeff Dyer, so when the book came out I rushed to the bookstore to buy it. After reading it, my feeling is a bit mixed. The book consists of two part; one set in Venice, and the other one in Varanasi. I loved the first half; it was fluid, daring, and filled with a certain jagged humor I love so much about Dyer's writing. But then, I got stumped by the second half. It was....boring, and seemed rather lost in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe because I'm from one of those Asian countries where cool westerners flocking to, Dyer's description of Vanarasi and it's way of life comes off as rather superficial to me. But still, I have no doubt that he's a very talented writer, and the book is well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I'm a little confused by this one, but in a good way!

    This one is giving me mixed emotions... Which I think is a good thing.

    The story follows Jeff, a freelance art writer from London. Jeff travels to Venice to cover a festival, where he meets a woman. They have a whirl-wind romance fueled by booze and drugs. The second part of the story is kind of a mystery. The narrator ends up in Varanasi and ends up staying, presumably forever (but we don't ever really know). In Varanasi he undergoes changes, life altering "spiritual" changes. But again, the fruition to which these changes lead the narrator is unknown.

    I really liked the story, and although I felt the writing was a bit embellished I liked the writing also. My biggest complaint has nothing to do with the story whatsoever, rather it's the use of one very offensive word - the c word. I'm by no means a prude, quite frankly I could make a sailor blush, but there are a few words that even I won't mutter and the c word is one of them. I don't know why this bothered me so bad, but I actually had to put the book down for a while to let myself cool off. As I was reading the more I kept thinking about that word and the more upset I got. I know it's crazy, but it just bothered me.... Once I cooled off a bit I was able to read it without seething, I guess I was having a moment.

    I liked the wit that was apparent throughout the book. I think without the added wit the story would have been somewhat lacking. But the humor made me want to keep reading (after I got over the c word thing). Something that was a little odd, but was part of the mystery of the second part, was that the first part of the book is written in third person whereas the second part is written in first person. But again, there is so much mystery as to who the narrator is (presumably Jeff from the first part, but I'll let you make your own decision). Then the mystery as to if he ever returns home...

    I can't say I loved this book, but I think that it was good. I have never read anything that reminds me of this so I can't make any comparison. I liked it, but at times it kind of teetered on a thin line between brilliant and completely absurd.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Like the river Ganga shimmering in the golden light at dawn, "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi" dazzles.

    Geoff Dyer's bright and thought-provoking novel, "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi", comprises two novellas titled, "Jeff in Venice" and "Death in Varanasi". Startling in conception and brilliantly executed, the novel is gripping, entertaining, and simply marvelous. His prose is crisp, effervescent as a newly opened can of soda, captivating, and superb.

    In the first novella (part I), Jeff Atman, a journalist from London, middle aged and burnt out, goes to Venice to cover the Biennale art exhibition. There he meets a beautiful woman named Laura, and is obsessed with drugs and having sex with her, and he finds solace in sex. In the second novella (part II), the unnamed protagonist, also like Jeff a journalist from London, middle aged, and burnt out, goes to the holy city of Varanasi, in India. In this vibrant city by the river Ganges, a city of very old, crumbling buildings, and even older temples, and a place where some people go to die, the journalist turns introspective and spends time by the river, brooding, and no longer obsessed with sex.

    Are the protagonists of the two novellas, Jeff Atman of "Jeff in Venice", and the unnamed journalist of "death in Varanasi" two different men? Or are they in fact one man portrayed with two divergent personalities? Both are middle aged journalists, and both are from London. Did Jeff - the boisterous, active journalist obsessed in Venice with sex, travel to Varanasi, and did he transform into an introspective, philosophical, brooding Journalist disinterested in sex? The author has refused to answer the questions when asked, saying that the readers should arrive at the answers by pondering on the stories. This is mysterious, indeed.

    In naming the hero Jeff Atman, the author has indulged in word play: the word Atman, in Sanskrit, means the human soul. So, does the author wish to convey that while living in the holy city, the prime spiritual center brimming with pilgrims seeking spiritual solace, Jeff's Atman (soul) is liberated? According to Hindu philosophy, a man need not die for his soul to be liberated; occasionally, a few spiritually evolved people (both men and women) do experience liberation while they are still alive. Such people are called "Jeevanmuktas".

    Reading this novel was a thrilling experience. The range of subjects, issues, and historical incidents that the author manages to squeeze into the narrative is so vast and awe inspiring that the novel is reminiscent of the mythological cornucopia: the difference being that instead of an endless supply of food and drinks pouring out of the horn, tidbits and wisecracks, and philosophical questions, and thoughts both profound and provocative, and sentences sparkling like gems, have flowed out of the author's pen. This is an original and thought-provoking novel. Like the river Ganga shimmering in the golden light at dawn, "Death in Varanasi" (Part Two) literally dazzles. To read it is to marvel about it, as I did.
    Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Jeff in Venice, Death in Varansi is a disappointing read

    As Venice is my most favorite place in the world and having been there three times, the first for nine days during Biannale, and taking a tour next winter to India including Varanasi, I thought this would be a wonderful read.
    Not for me.
    As it is primarily a narrative, it is a two-part book with no intervening chapters, something I personally don't enjoy, altho' that might just be me. However, there are mid-page pauses now and then.
    The first part about Venice, altho' a nice description of the city here and there, is mainly about an affair that includes traipsing about art parties for free booze, inhaling coke now and then and having some very well-defined and rather erotic sex.
    The second half obviously takes place in Varanasi. I learned that it is where people take their loved ones to be cremated in the river Ganges. I assume the "ghats" to which the main character refers are some sort of docks lining the river. It was never explained. The character portrayed stays and stays, becomes more or less an "Indian" and I gather just dies. It ends quite oddly.
    Although unfamiliar with the author, he is obvioulsy highly thought of per the reviews included with the book. Had I read them first, I might have been even more disappointed. I gather it is meant to be rather philosophical and being a lover of action and adventure, although I do a lot of reading about places to which I'm going or have been, it simply was not my cup of tea.

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