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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer

A beautiful and profound book. Two sections, two different stories -- or are they about the same person? or are they different versions of the same story. In the first, Jeff, a bitter, disillusioned freelance writer, attends the Bienale art exhibition in Venice, mostly because he's bored of London and wants the free stuff he'll get as a travelling reporter for a magazine. He meets a beautiful, mysterious, passionate American woman and has a torrid affair.

In the second, an unnamed narrator travels to Varanasi, again bitter, again disillusion, and undergoes a spiritual and metaphysical catharsis, ending as a bearded, homeless ascetic who seems to be falling into psychosis.

The only connection between the two novellas? In the first, the woman mentions to the man that she might next be travelling to Varanasi, and he says that he too also wants to go there at some point.

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