HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words {Male Edition} (1984)

by Milorad Pavić

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dictionary of the Khazars (Male)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,0791718,813 (3.78)1 / 13
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.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

» See also 13 mentions

English (16)  Dutch (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I've meant to read this for more than ten years, but never managed to pick up a copy. As you might expect from a “dictionary,” there is not a traditional plot, though one does sort of emerge if you read it linearly, from front to back, like a novel, which I did. It feels a bit like Calvino's "If on a winter's night a traveler..." or Perec's "A Void". The story is about the book itself and the reader is drawn into it as an unwilling character.

It reads more like a collection of folk tales with beautiful, bizarre imagery and metaphors. It is a cross between a religious text with its morals and aphorisms and A Thousand and One Nights with its embedded stories and fairy tale wisdom and dream-like logic. Though sometimes pretty dry, it moved along quickly enough with oases of lyrical prose, which is why it earned such a high rating from from. Plus, I loved the themes of dreams and language and mystical knowledge. Here's a little taste of Pavic's style...

"She looked like a heron dreaming it was a woman."

"Sometimes the fruit releases voices that sound like a chaffinch. It has a very cold and somewhat salty taste. Since it is so light and carries a pit that pulsates like a heart, when it drops from the branch in autumn it floats for a while, fluttering its feathers as though swimming through the waves of the wind."

"But I tell you all this in vain, for you carry your eyes in your mouth and do not see until you speak."

"A person's acts in life are like meals, and his thoughts and feelings like seasoning. Whoever puts salt on cherries or pours vinegar on sweets will fare poorly..."

"Vowels are the soul in the body of consonants."

"There is only one wisdom... the wisdom spread through the sphere of the universe is no greater than the wisdom contained in the tiniest of animals."

“The branches touched overhead. Reaching for their food -- for light, the trees built beauty. From my food all I can build is memories. I will not be made beautiful by my hunger. What binds me to the trees is something they know how to do and I don't."

"I have to keep hunting for my own thoughts. They're mine not when they're born but when I catch them, if I manage to do so before they escape me."

"Still, boatmen and shepherds will sometimes see a bird being torn apart in the sky, and they know that this is because the bird, in some fit of madness or avian grief, reminiscent of a human lie, has pecked at the seed of the white reed, which then sprouted inside it and tore it asunder in the sky. Something like toothmarks are always found near the root of the white reed; the shepherds say that the white reed grows not from the soil but from the mouth of some underwater demon that whistles and talks through it, luring birds and other greedy creatures to its seed." ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
I've meant to read this for more than ten years, but never managed to pick up a copy. As you might expect from a “dictionary,” there is not a traditional plot, though one does sort of emerge if you read it linearly, from front to back, like a novel, which I did. It feels a bit like Calvino's "If on a winter's night a traveler..." or Perec's "A Void". The story is about the book itself and the reader is drawn into it as an unwilling character.

It reads more like a collection of folk tales with beautiful, bizarre imagery and metaphors. It is a cross between a religious text with its morals and aphorisms and A Thousand and One Nights with its embedded stories and fairy tale wisdom and dream-like logic. Though sometimes pretty dry, it moved along quickly enough with oases of lyrical prose, which is why it earned such a high rating from from. Plus, I loved the themes of dreams and language and mystical knowledge. Here's a little taste of Pavic's style...

"She looked like a heron dreaming it was a woman."

"Sometimes the fruit releases voices that sound like a chaffinch. It has a very cold and somewhat salty taste. Since it is so light and carries a pit that pulsates like a heart, when it drops from the branch in autumn it floats for a while, fluttering its feathers as though swimming through the waves of the wind."

"But I tell you all this in vain, for you carry your eyes in your mouth and do not see until you speak."

"A person's acts in life are like meals, and his thoughts and feelings like seasoning. Whoever puts salt on cherries or pours vinegar on sweets will fare poorly..."

"Vowels are the soul in the body of consonants."

"There is only one wisdom... the wisdom spread through the sphere of the universe is no greater than the wisdom contained in the tiniest of animals."

“The branches touched overhead. Reaching for their food -- for light, the trees built beauty. From my food all I can build is memories. I will not be made beautiful by my hunger. What binds me to the trees is something they know how to do and I don't."

"I have to keep hunting for my own thoughts. They're mine not when they're born but when I catch them, if I manage to do so before they escape me."

"Still, boatmen and shepherds will sometimes see a bird being torn apart in the sky, and they know that this is because the bird, in some fit of madness or avian grief, reminiscent of a human lie, has pecked at the seed of the white reed, which then sprouted inside it and tore it asunder in the sky. Something like toothmarks are always found near the root of the white reed; the shepherds say that the white reed grows not from the soil but from the mouth of some underwater demon that whistles and talks through it, luring birds and other greedy creatures to its seed." ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
Dictionary of the Khazars stands as a monument to the dangers of magical realism when it is in the hands of incapable authors. There is a fine line between the magic of a García Marquez, and the sort of forced ortherworldiness of this book. Princesses die because they accidentally saw letters in a mirror (because she sleeps with them on her eyes for protection, because khazars believed the written world had power to kill, you see). Sons (created from clay by their human fathers, of course) are normal besides the fact that they "replace" Tuesdays with days from the future (I'm serious). The constant feyness and overall tryhardness just wore me down.

not to mention the dictionary entry gimmick is frankly pointless when each "entry" is a 20 page short story. ( )
2 vote ajdesasha | Nov 8, 2019 |
A bird foraging for food in the swamps and marshes sinks rapidly if it doesn't move. It has to keep pulling its feet out of the mire to move on, regardless of whether it has caught something or not. And the same applies to us and to our love. We have to move on, we can't stay where we are, because we'll sink.

This is less a novel, than shards of story reduced to a taxonomy. The bird metaphor does reflect on the precariousness of the parsing. Sifting through such, the reader coalesces the data, breathes life into the clay monolith. The activation inspires the author's wrath on forgotten tragedy and erasure. Vengeance is wrecked. Outside of the framing story, which we discover three-quarters of the way through Dictionary, there is a curious silence of intent. We learn of dream hunters and an amalgamation which combines female and masculine, the light and dark and along the way we gather images from cello-fingering and fencing manuals. I would recommend reading the entries which appear in all three sections of the novel first. It won't necessarily elucidate but it yields some fascinating overlap.
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |



Dictionary of the Khazars - Right on the title page prospective readers are informed there are two, nearly identical, editions of this book – MALE and FEMALE (authors caps). We are also alerted, warned even, that ONE PARAGRAPH (again, author's caps) is critically different in each edition. As both editions are now available in English, Serbian author Milorad Pavić and/or his publisher conclude this mini preamble with these words: “The choice is yours.”

Quizzically quaint in that I see not only one but three choices a reader can make: 1) which edition to read; 2) to search or not to search for that ONE PARAGRAPH; 3) once found or not found, the amount of importance ascribed to said single paragraph (this “lexicon novel” is well over three hundred pages). Additionally, many more choices could unravel depending upon a reader's decisions.

What does all this bring to mind? The children's gamebooks, Choose Your Own Adventure, or, perhaps Jorge Luis Borges’ labyrinths or Umberto Eco’s literary puzzles or Italo Calvino’s direct references to how we read a book? If intrigued, even slightly, please read on. If not, you can stop right here. The choice is yours.

Preceding the reconstructed and revised second edition of The Khazar Dictionary, that is, the Milorad Pavić novel, there are more than a dozen pages of Preliminary Notes. Here’s the very first sentence: “The author assures the reader that he will not have to die if he reads this book, as did the user of the 1691 edition, when The Khazar Dictionary still had its first scribe.” Always encouraging words, especially for a book reviewer like myself who would like to continue reading and reviewing more books after I’m done with this one.

And who were the Khazars, you may well ask? Answer: a powerful people whose kingdom ruled lands at crossroads along the Silk Road between the Caspian Sea and Black Sea from the 7th to 10th century, a people who preached their own faith, a faith that continues to remain unknown to us moderns. Their conversion to one of the Western monotheistic religions -Judaism, Christianity, Islam - lead to the downfall of their empire at the hands of the Russians. The fact we do not know which one of the three religions is a central theme of the Dictionary of the Khazars.

What we do know is the ruler of the Khazars, the kaghan, invited a rabbi and a monk, and a dervish to his palace to compete in a contest to provide the best interpretation of a powerful, significant, fateful dream he had. The kaghan proclaimed that he and his people would convert to the winner's religion. Since no definitive record from the period has survived, in later years, each religion claimed victory. Ah, religion - what else is new?

The Preliminary Notes provide all sorts of remarkable detail, such as eyewitness reports that in the years following the demolition of the Khazar capital at the mouth of the Caspian Sea by the conquering Russians, shadows of the city’s houses held their outlines long after the buildings were destroyed. Leads me to believe, as a consequence of the Khazar defeat, the opium trade along the Silk Road must have been booming.

Also, how one 17th century chronicler explained his own day’s awakened interest in various writings and documents revolving around the competition for that distant kaghan’s kingdom: “Each of us promenades his thought, like a monkey on a leash. When you read, you always have two such monkeys: your own and the one belonging to someone else. Or, even worse, a monkey and a hyena. Now, consider what you will feed them. For the hyena does not eat the same thing as a monkey . . . .”

Say what? Not exactly the quote one would use to encourage young people to develop a love for books and reading. It would be interesting to know what stake the chronicler had in the Khazar debate. Was he himself an jaded reader? Maybe just another disgruntled author who couldn’t find a publisher for his own writing.

And there was funny business aplenty with that first edition of the Dictionary published at the end of the 17th century: two copies survived the Inquisition, one printed with a poisoned dye. Whoever opened the book soon grew numb and the reader would drop dead on the ninth page. At some point, the poisoned copy was destroyed. (Maybe not a bad thing). The other copy was also destroyed, this time by an old man who would tear out one page at a time to dip in his soup so as to skim off the fat. Thus, the second edition was put together, piece by piece, drawing on various sources through times both medieval and modern and lands, near and far and far out.

I’ll conclude my observations on the Preliminary Notes by citing how the author encourages us to read the book in such a way that we can rearrange the parts much like a Rubik's cube and put it together as if playing a game of dominoes or cards. And, “as with a mirror, he will get out of this dictionary as much as he puts into it, for, as is written on one of the pages of this lexicon, you cannot get more out of the truth than what you put into it. After all, this book need never be read in its entirety; one can take half or only a part and stop there, as one often does with dictionaries.”

The bulk of Milorad Pavić’s novel is composed of: The Red Book, The Green Book, The Yellow Book, that is, three dictionaries on the Khazar question compiled by three sources: Christian (Red), Islamic (Green) and Hebrew (Yellow). Contained therein are tales and tales within tales - a maze, a web, a jumble, a literary stew of states of consciousness, deadly alphabets, a princess with multiple faces, human immortality, fast and slow mirrors, inheritances based on the color of one’s beard, bones made of gold, learning the Khazar language from a parrot, a sealed chest of hashish, glass fingernails, dreams of a multicolored moustache, an illness serving as a pair of eyes. And that’s only from the first pages of The Red Book! It gets better. It gets wilder and wilder and wilder.

As by way of example, here are brief notes on the first two entries: Ateh, a 9th century princess, played a decisive role in the conversion of the Khazars. While asleep, the princess protected herself from her enemies by writing a single letter on each of her eyelids. The princess’s star-studded entry covers four glorious pages.

Brankovich Avram of the 17th century was among the authors of the book who could not speak one language for more than a minute at a time. While in conversation, Brankovich switched back and forth from Hungarian to Turkish to Walachian to Khazar and spoke Spanish in his sleep. His entry goes on for more than twenty pages (all in English).

This is a novel for lovers of storytelling, lovers who are willing to open the book as if picking up a Rubik's cube and delighting in each rotation. Who knows, such a lover might reach states of bliss unknown even to Khazar mystics and dreamers. The choice is yours.


Milorad Pavić, 1929-2009 - Serbian novelist, poet and literary historian

"Overall, he became a handsome and educated young man, and only occasionally did he exhibit barely noticeable signs that he was unlike others. For example, on Monday evenings he could take a different day from his future and use it the following morning, in place of Tuesday. When he came to the day he had taken, he would use the skipped Tuesday in its place, thereby adjusting the total. Under these conditions, of course, the connecting seams of the days could not fit together properly, and cracks appeared in time, but this matter only gladdened Petkutin." - Milorad Pavić, Dictionary of the Khazars ( )
1 vote Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pavić, MiloradAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dokter, ReinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerritse, MarjanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jansen, ChristelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mühlbauer, RitaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petkov, GordanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
The author assures the reader that he will not have to die if he reads this book, as did the user of the 1691 edition, when The Khazar Dictionary still had its first scribe.
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
The Dictionary of the Khazars was published simultaneously in "male" and "female" versions. There is a slight, but critical, difference between the texts; please distinguish between them. This LT Work is the Male Edition. Thank you.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.78)
0.5 1
1 6
1.5
2 10
2.5 5
3 31
3.5 7
4 49
4.5 4
5 46

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 204,579,109 books! | Top bar: Always visible