Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi - Geoff Dyer

This is Geoff Dyer's fourth novel and is told in two parts. In the first, we meet Jeff, a freelance hack who is covering the Biennale in Venice. He meets and falls in lust with American Laura. The second part is narrated by a british journalist (Jeff pehaps?) who goes to Varanasi in India to write a travel piece and decides to stay.

We never know for certain that our two protagonists are the same, although similarities exist. It is only towards the end of the second part that we realise that they are in sequence, but it still doesn't confirm the reader's desire to know if they are one and the same. This feeling of similarity is compounded by the use of two like settings: Venice and Varanasi. Although worlds apart, both are old crumbling cities surrounded by water. It is in one city that one hero lives an exhuberent, carnal life, while in the other city, our second hero lives a quiet life surrounded by death. References to Ginsberg pepper the second novella while Thomas Mann's novella Death in Venice heavily influences the first part.

Despite the love interest of the first part and the travel-guide quality of the second half, as well as the rich and sometimes funny writing, I just couldn't warm a whole lot to this novel. There is ultimately a lack of conclusion. Perhaps it is a book of the zeitgeist?

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