Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi – Geoff Dyer

A novel in two distinctly different parts, albeit with a common character – freelance journalist (aka article writer as opposed to investigative), Jeff Atman, and a common scenario – his time abroad (no prizes for guessing where).

Story 1 features a four day jolly in Venice covering the Biennale art festival which brings copious quantities of champagne (in the shape of Bellinis), coke and sex – all shared with American free spirit Laura. In contrast, Varanasi brings introspection and gradual dissolve through illness and mind body although not (in my reading at least) spirit.

Now, what I totally failed to appreciate was the following (quoted from Jamie Mollart’s review on

“Based on Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, both parts of the book borrow themes and motifs from this classic Novella- unrequited love, the personality of places, and indeed it is Venice and Varanasi that are the real main characters here. Both are lovingly described in exquisite detail, both are decaying beauties, both are facades under which there is very little substance and yet both are revered as place of spiritually and culture.

The people are secondary, as too is the plot really, and it is the spirit of the two cities, so perfectly captured, that made this book such a pleasure to read.” link: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi – Geoff Dyer