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The Dictionary of the Khazars (International Writers) Paperback – 28 Jun 1990

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Male ed edition (28 Jun. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140114696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140114690
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 835,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"All its delights...the structural novelty and the comic inventiveness of the imagery...[are] an ebullient and generous celebration of the reading experience."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"As with Borges or Garcia Marquez...[Pavic] knows how to support his textual legerdemain with superb portrait miniatures and entrancing anecdotes." -- Washington Post Book World
Translated from the Serbo-Croatian
by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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By A Customer on 21 Nov. 1999
Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 23 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 27 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
I first read this thinking it was a non fiction historical book. Knowing some of the history of the Balkans, it was a bit factual then a bit.. well, odd. The author frequently shocks.. conjurs up strange medieval thought.. creates the most innovative structure I've ever discovered in a book. The commentary on the back cover of this book says it all. "Pavic thinks the way we dream".
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