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Dictionary of the Khazars (M) [Paperback]

Milorad Pavic
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 23 1989 Vintage International
A national bestseller, Dictionary of the Khazars was cited by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of the year. Written in two versions, male and female (both available in Vintage International), which are identical save for seventeen crucial lines, Dictionary is the imaginary book of knowledge of the Khazars, a people who flourished somewhere beyond Transylvania between the seventh and ninth centuries. Eschewing conventional narrative and plot, this lexicon novel combines the dictionaries of the world's three major religions with entries that leap between past and future, featuring three unruly wise men, a book printed in poison ink, suicide by mirrors, a chimerical princess, a sect of priests who can infiltrate one's dreams, romances between the living and the dead, and much more.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Available in slightly differing "male" and "female" editions, the narrative purports to be the historical record of the Khazars, a fictional Indo-European tribe that vanished in the 10th century. "Pavic is a 20th-century Scheherazade," acknowledged PW . "Readers who are intrigued by literary conundrums will enjoy entering this magical world with Pavic as their guide."
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Christina Pribicevic-Zoric. LC 88-45262. $19.95. f Yugoslav writer Pavic assures us that the Khazars were a nomadic people who settled near the Black Sea in the 7th century A.D. "But their origins remain unknown and all traces of them have vanished." A thousand years later a Polish printer incorporated surviving knowledge of the Khazars into a dictionaryalmost all copies of which were burned by the Inquisition. Pavic's interlocking series of witty and fantastic tales purports to update that edition, but by now all "facts" about the forgotten nation are doubly conjectural. As if the truth weren't problematic enough already, Pavic has even produced his lexicon in "male" and "female" versions differing by only a few (highly significant!) words. This congeries will delight readers of Borges and Calvino, although libraries will need to buy both editions to satisfy them.Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive, playful, but is there more to it? Dec 18 2002
Format:Paperback
Admittedly, it takes more than one reading to nail this book down, and I have read it only once. It is a very playful book, turning literature on its head. Prepare to read it with a similar irreverential attitude, i.e., don't expect to reap too much, or take it or your time too seriously, just be there for sheer nonsense.
Structurally I haven't figured out whether the Khazar polemic and the three religious sects were just another ploy the author used to pique interest (like the male and female edition) or is there really anything more to it. At this point, I haven't found much that differentiate one book from the another. That is, I can put a Christian entry into the Islam book and no one will find any discordance. It is another way of saying: there appear to be no lines demarcating the religions, and the Khazar polemic seems another hoax the author wrote to tease the reader.
If forced to glean some "meaning", I would say the book, by establishing no difference between religions, and in fact making contradicting statements about the Khazar Polemic based on undifferentiated religions, seems to suggest that the only good the religious quarrels do to us is to make us insane, manifested in a book with a total breakdown of logic and reality.
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Format:Paperback
Are you ready for this ? Do you want a novel with a plot, tangible characters, and the usual narrative style ? OK, forget this book. You are flying over an unknown land, maybe New Guinea, below all is steep mountain and impenetrable jungle. It's a land sparsely inhabited by utterly different people. You fly through some clouds, get lost. Now how will you navigate ? It's all so beautiful, but where are you going? You look down and in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, "you know something's happenin', but you don't know what it is.." Yes, you are definitely reading DICTIONARY OF THE KHAZARS, a beautiful, strange book, redolant with poetry, myth, fantasy, legend, a murder case, dreams, scraps of history, and a political allegory about former Yugoslavia. Pavic has a 17th century fresco painter who is also the Devil say, "Why shouldn't someone create a dictionary of words that make up one book and let the reader himself assemble the words into a whole ?" Pavic has come close to that. The words dazzle. In what other book can you find an egg that holds one day of life, a Thursday or Friday ? Where else do you read about a man with ears so pointed that he could slice a piece of bread with them, about parrot poems, eleven-fingered lute players, or inheritance according to the color of one's beard ? When I read that "it was so quiet in the inn that the hair of the dreamer could be heard splitting somewhere in the dark" I knew that I could not give this novel less than four stars.
The Khazars were a Turkic people living on the Ukrainian steppes and between the Black and Caspian Seas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Between total fantasy and magical realism July 31 2000
Format:Paperback
I saw this book in a store and saw that there were two editions. This intrigued me -- why "Male" & "Female". It was only several years later on the Internet that I was finally able to find the differing sections -- and different they are, although not necessary for the enjoyment of the book. Choose either edition; you will find the same pleasure.
The Khazars were a real people, holding wide areas of modern-day Russian. They did convert, eventually to Judaism, although you would never learn this from Pavic in particular. No, Pavic is not worried about the reality of the Khazars, but in the melding of cultures of the Balkans, the state of Man and God and their relationships to each other, and odd connections that a literate reader makes between multiple books.
This is not a book with a plot. This is not a book with a single or simple way to read it. I believe that I have read the whole book twice, but they only way I could say that for certain would to be like Hansel and Gretzel and leave marks on the pages that I have actually finished. Like swimming through a dictionary or encyclopedia, this book invites you to read sections in no particular order, or, more realistically, in the order YOU see fit to choose.
The three sections (Christian, Muslem, Jewish) are seperated, yet intermingled due to cross references (many of them contradictory). They are colour-coded, yet this only provides one level of deliniation. Each section is set up like an encyclopedia in its own right. The unifying figure of Princess Ateh is sure to intrigue any sagacious reader; the whimsical nature of the book may seem superficial at first, but you will be drawn deeper into the mystery of "What is this all about?
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Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Between total fantasy and magical realism July 31 2000
Format:Paperback
I saw this book in a store and saw that there were two editions. This intrigued me -- why "Male" & "Female". It was only several years later on the Internet that I was finally able to find the differing sections -- and different they are, although not necessary for the enjoyment of the book. Choose either edition; you will find the same pleasure.
The Khazars were a real people, holding wide areas of modern-day Russian. They did convert, eventually to Judaism, although you would never learn this from Pavic in particular. No, Pavic is not worried about the reality of the Khazars, but in the melding of cultures of the Balkans, the state of Man and God and their relationships to each other, and odd connections that a literate reader makes between multiple books.
This is not a book with a plot. This is not a book with a single or simple way to read it. I believe that I have read the whole book twice, but they only way I could say that for certain would to be like Hansel and Gretzel and leave marks on the pages that I have actually finished. Like swimming through a dictionary or encyclopedia, this book invites you to read sections in no particular order, or, more realistically, in the order YOU see fit to choose.
The three sections (Christina, Muslem, Jewish) are seperated, yet intermingled due to cross references (many of them contradictory). They are colour-coded, yet this only provides one level of deliniation. Each section is set up like an encyclopedia in its own right. The unifying figure of Princess Ateh is sure to intrigue any sagacious reader; the whimsical nature of the book may seem superficial at first, but you will be drawn deeper into the mystery of "What is this all about?
Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The book for intellectual and exquisite minds. Pavic's metaphors ...
The book for intellectual and exquisite minds. Pavic's metaphors are unique. Can dive into his world and forget about all miserable things of real life.
Published 18 days ago by Larisa
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book, speedy shipping!
Published 1 month ago by Dwight
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want something unique amd different go no further
This is one of the most amazing books you will ever read. It makes absolutely no sense at all, but it shows how style can be pleasant, how literature can still be music, and how... Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by Damir Janigro
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want something unique amd different go no further
This is one of the most amazing books you will ever read. It makes absolutely no sense at all, but it shows how style can be pleasant, how literature can still be music, and how... Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by Damir Janigro
5.0 out of 5 stars quite simply the most complex book ever written!
Pavic's Dictionary is without a shred of doubt the best, most beautiful and the most complex book I have ever read. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2004 by Vladimir Miletic
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for the average reader
I picked this book up and thought it would be interesting. I like mythology and folklore. However, this was the best book to put me sleep. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars A lexicon of poetry
This is a bizarre and beautiful book, and perhaps due to my limited attention span I found its value more in the poetry of its language than its attempts at being a novel. Read more
Published on May 22 2002 by "red_haired_dancing_girl"
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for Those with ADD
Per the author's challenge to the average reader to discover his or her reading style within the confines of "the book," I would suggest that the "Dictionary of the Khazars" be... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2002 by K.A. Snead
4.0 out of 5 stars Ku
Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars is a very odd book. It's written more like an encyclopaedia than a dictionary, and more like a book of mythology/folklore than an... Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2001 by Shantell Powell
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthless plagiarism
As it seems to me, the decrepitude of Logos is by now glaringly evident ( except for fashion fans & addicted devourers of blase fiction quasinovelties ). Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2000 by Mir Harven
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