Living. Geoff Dyer’s latest work of fiction is titled Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. Structured as two novellas without a clear connection, both stories are philosophical reflections about life. A jaded and burned out journalist reluctantly accepts an assignment to once again cover the Biennale when the international art world converges on Venice. Amid the beauty and the parties, there’s a dullness and a deadness that seems to envelop Jeff until he meets someone who enlivens him, although his joy may not endure. The second story is set in India at the holy place where Hindus ritually cremate the dead. The first person narrator is a journalist (who might well be the same Jeff as in Venice) on a brief assignment to Varanasi, who elects to stay there for months, finding life amid death, while abandoning any ambition or desire for material things. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is an odd work of fiction that will require some reader patience. Dyer’s talented writing can allow a reader to relax, reading page after page to see, feel and think about each scene, without having to be bound by connections or a logical narrative flow. The differences and similarities between Venice and Varanasi provide ample material to make reading this book pleasurable.
Rating: Three-star (Recommended)