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Dictionary of Khazars (Vintage International) [Paperback]

4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Oct 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage International Ed., Female Ed edition (28 Oct 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067972754X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679727545
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 11.3 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The novel NOT as we know it 29 April 2004
I'm willing to bet my paycheck that you haven't read anything remotelylike "The Dictionary...". I know I hadn't. For one it is structured likea dictionary - or, perhaps more accurately, an encyclopaedia. The joy ofthis is that you can open the book at any page and read any entry at all(though I must recommend that you read the introduction before you dothis) and you'll be reading an entertaining 'storylet', which makes uppart of the overall story.
But M Pavic added an additional layer (or rather 3) of complexity to thisstructure: you see, this book is not one dictionary but three - aChristian, a Hebrew and a Muslim version. Each 'book' recounts the taleof the conversion of the Khazars, but approaches the story from theirdifferent viewpoint.
And this adds to the beauty of this book: You can read it 'diagonally' -i.e. read about a person or event (say Princess Ateh) in the Christianversion, then go to the Hebrew and see what they say about her, and thenon to the Muslim. The same story is often slanted subtly in each version- it's very engaging and very clever.
But this book is not just about gimmicks (because, face it, that's allthis dictionary structure really is). Pavic is a very good writer andevery sentence is sculpted, not a word is out of place. And with theKhazars he has (re)constructed a complete world. And it's a world I'mglad I visited.
One final word of warning: This is no holiday book, an easy airportlounge book. It is serious and dense and you have to wrestle its juicefrom it. The author is perhaps half-serious when he warns in theintroduction that readers have died or gone mad from attempting thisbook.
Still reading? Good. If I haven't scared you off, welcome to the worldof the Khazars. Enjoy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read 23 Feb 1999
By A Customer
For those who like slow reading, for those who like thinking while reading, for those who like not-so-straightforward lines... This is the best book that has ever been written
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intellectual Curio 27 May 2002
A very strange book, it comes in the form of a dictionary. The plot is, therefore, almost random access. You cross refer through to develop the story. I believe there are two versions in existence, a Male & Female version, whch differ only by one sentence.
So, in short, if you like your entertainment to be cerebral, it's one for you.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating reading 21 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This book grabbed my attention from the dedication on the frontispiece: "Here lies the reader who will never open this book. He is here forever dead." The book consists of three books, or three dictionaries, each telling the story of the imaginary people the Khazars from three points of view: Christian, Moslem or Jewish. Reading entries about the same characters in each book I've been jumping back and forwards from page to page. I love reading this way, its like reading a hypertext only you have total control of where you go and what you read about. The language is beautiful (the translation from Serbo-Croatian is either excellent or creative) and the joy in the story-telling spills over into the several versions of each event and each person described. Absolutely a book I'd recommend, though the advice in the introduction is probably quite good:
"The author advises the reader not to tackle this book unless he absolutely has to. And if he does touch it, let it be on days when he feels that his mind and sense of caution probe deeper than usual, and let him read it the way he catches "leap fever", an illness that skips over every other day and strikes only on feminine days of the week."
Oh, and take note: there's a male version of the book and a female version of the book...
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