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Dictionary of the Khazars (M) [Paperback]

Milorad Pavic
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 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
5.0 out of 5 stars quite simply the most complex book ever written! Feb. 14 2004
Format:Paperback
Pavic's Dictionary is without a shred of doubt the best, most beautiful and the most complex book I have ever read. It was written with an impecable style, but let me warn you right away: don't expect an ordinary fictional work. The Dictionary is a multilayered masterpiece, it talks about the same event and culture from three points of view. All different. All contradictory. All true. All false.
In the beginning, you'll wonder if he's normal; half way through it, you'll wonder if you're normal for believing him and in the end, you'll want to read it again, again and again. So far I have read it cover to cover eight times, and I don't even think that I understand it completely.
This wonderful showcase of dialectics is a definite must read!
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Format:Paperback
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 fiction and history can be seen as different opinions on the same events.
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Format:Paperback
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 fiction and history can be seen as different opinions of the same events.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not for the average reader Oct. 9 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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. It is packed with detail and what I find to be chatter without ever being rooted. If you don't care about having a any type of foundation while reading, other than alphabetical entries and page numbers, give this book a shot. Other than that, you'll find the new book by Madonna geared more towards you. I know I will...
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A lexicon of poetry May 22 2002
Format:Paperback
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. Some of the passages, such as the one describing Man's relationship to God as similar to that of the man and the moth, are breathtakingly wonderful. As a writer myself, I have been endlessly inspired by his new ideas in both language and structure. If you're looking for straightforward magical realism I would suggest reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Milan Kundera first, but if you wish to delve deeper into the odd tunnels of human thought (I often wonder how Pavic thought of some of his stories-within-stories)then this "lexical novel" is highly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for Those with ADD Jan. 31 2002
Format:Paperback
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 marketed to people who either 1) are effected by ADD [...] On the one hand, the book provides no reference point; much like hyperspace, the person who likes quick clicks and the illusion of complete control will take to the "Dictionary" like (insert your own bad metaphor). Any entrance point can become THE entrance point, and the story (which, by the way, contradicts itself at every turn) is set to provide worlds of diversion to those of us who enjoy the "casual flip."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ku Oct. 31 2001
Format:Paperback
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 encyclopaedia.
Perhaps the book can be best described as the ultimate bathroom reading for post-modernists. The book is divided into three parts: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. The entries are generally short, and can be read in any order. As you read, you'll find crossovers, similarities, and outright contradictions to perplex and tease your mind. The time periods covered jump from the distant past to the present, with murders, accidental deaths, personification of devils, and dream-hunting.
Some parts I found rather dry, but on the whole, the book is filled with moments where I would put the book down to contemplate a sentence. The Dictionary of the Khazars is full of nice, chewy ideas and insights, and reads a bit like a more user-friendly Umberto Eco.
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