Sunday, 31 May 2009

Book of the Week - Geoff Dyer; Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is the fourth novel from Geoff Dyer, who has also published a number of non-fiction books on a range of topics. The novel came out earlier this year as a paperback from Canongate, and was well-reviewed by most of the major papers. It has continued to receive notice, this week winning the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing, and is now into reprints. As a result a Gloucester Old Spot pig has been named after the book. Despite the nature of the prize, this is a fundamentally serious novel and may feature in other prize lists later in the year.

Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 1958 and was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. His first book, Ways of Telling: The Work of John Berger, was published in 1986. His first novel was The Colour of Memory (1989), set in Brixton, south London, in the 1980s. His non-fiction includes a book about jazz entitled But Beautiful (1991), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Missing of the Somme (1994), which was adapted for BBC Radio 3 and broadcast on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the battle of the Somme; a book about D. H. Lawrence entitled Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of D. H. Lawrence (1997), which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (USA); and a collection of essays, Anglo-English Attitudes: Essays, Reviews, Misadventures, 1984-99, published in 1999. Other novels include the Search (1993), a complex narrative about a woman's search for her missing husband, and Paris Trance (1998), chronicling the sex and drug-fuelled adventures of two couples living in Paris.

"Jeff Atman, a journalist, is in Venice to cover the opening of the Venice Art Biennale. He's expecting to see a load of art, go to a lot of parties and drink too many bellinis. He's not expecting to meet the spellbinding Laura, who will completely transform his few days in the city. Another city, another assignment: this time on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi. Amid the crowds, ghats and chaos of India's holiest Hindu city a different kind of transformation lies in wait. A beautifully told story of erotic love and spiritual yearning."

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