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In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Zuleika Dobson 59th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. 

Zuleika Dobson is a stunningly attractive young woman of the Edwardian era, a true femme fatale. Zuleika's enrapturing beauty has made her something of a small-time celebrity and she manages to gain entrance to the privileged, all-male domain of Oxford University because her grandfather is the Warden of Judas College (based on Merton College, Oxford, author Beerbohm's alma mater). 

There, she falls in love for the first time in her life with the present Duke of Dorset, a snobbish, emotionally detached student who—frustrated with the lack of control over his feelings when he sees her—is forced to admit that she too is his first love, impulsively proposing to her. What ensues is a deliciously twisted farce-c*m-satire written in some of the most beautiful prose ever put to paper. 

The star of the novel is the writing. Beerbohm's style is startling and unique, a sort of lyrical prose-poetry that lulls the reader with its dreamy, hypnotic imagery. Consider the following description of the heroine's pincushion: 

"Zuleika's pincushion, a-bristle with new pins, lay on the dimity-flounced toilet-table, and round it stood a multitude of multiform glass vessels, domed, all of them, with dull gold, on which Z. D., in zianites and diamonds, was encrusted. On a small table stood a great casket of malachite, initialled in like fashion. On another small table stood Zuleika's library. Both books were in covers of dull gold. On the back of one cover BRADSHAW, in beryls, was encrusted; on the back of the other, A.B.C. GUIDE, in amethysts, beryls, chrysoprases, and garnets. And Zuleika's great cheval-glass stood ready to reflect her. Always it travelled with her, in a great case specially made for it. It was framed in ivory, and of fluted ivory were the slim columns it swung between. Of gold were its twin sconces, and four tall tapers stood in each of them." 

Beerbohm writes with the same mellifluous flamboyance as his friend and fellow aesthete Oscar Wilde. 

“If 'Zuleika Dobson' is too frivolous to be certified as ‘canonical,’ it is clearly a perennially revivable minor classic, uniquely redolent of a particular time and place.” ~ The Los Angeles Times 

“A perfect fantasy.” ~ The New York Review of Books

febrero 18
Enhanced Media
Damian Stevenson

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