Dictionary of the Khazars. A lexicon-novel in 100.000 words
Original title: Hazarski rečnik. Roman leksikon u 100.000 reči
First edition: Prosveta, Belgrade, 1984, 242 pages
Хазарский словарь (Dictionary of the Khazars) (29*30)
Санкт-Петербург, Азбука, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998(2), 1999, 2000, 2001(4), 2002(3), 2003(5), 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2016
Санкт-Петербург, Амфора 2009.
Киев, “Софиа”, 1996. (edition in Russian)
ICIS Creative Factory AB, Stockholm, 2005. (interactive internet edition)
Санкт-Петербург, Лениздат-классика, 2013 (2, male and female version)
Dictionary of the Khazars (10)
Knopf, New York, 1988.
Hamish Hamilton, London, 1989.
Penguin, London, 1989.
Reader’s Club, London, 1989.
Vintage International, New York, 1989.
Book of the Monte Club, New York, 1990.
Dereta, Belgrade, 1996, 2017
ICIS Creative Factory AB, Stockholm, 2005. (interactive internet edition)
Dictionary of the Khazars [Kindle Edition e-book]
Amazon.com, Kindle Store, 2012.
Das Chasarische Worterbuch – Lexikonroman (2) (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Carl Hanser Verlag, Munchen, Wien, 1988.
Deutche Taschenbuch Verlag, Munchen, 1991.
Dizionario dei Chazari (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Garzanti Editore, Milano, 1988.
Chazarsky slovnik (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Bratislava, Vydavatelstvo Slovart, 2003, 2006.
Khazarernes Bog (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Denmark, Centrum, 1989.
Kazarenes Leksikon (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Oslo, Solum Forlag, 2004.
Kasaarisanakirja (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Kistannusosakeyhtio Tammi, Helsinki, 1990.
Slownik Chazarski (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Warszawa, tCHu, 1993, 2004.
Dicionario Kazar (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Sao Paulo, Marco Zero, 1989.
Lisboa, Dom Quixote, 1990.
Diccionari Khazar (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Barcelona, Columna edicions, llibres i co, 1989, 2002.
Het Chazaars woordenboek (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Uitgeverij Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 1989.
Chazarų žodynas (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Lijetuvos rasitoju sajungos leidikla, Vilna, 2010.
Kasaari sõnastik: Romaan-leksikon, 100 000 sõna (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Tallinn, Varrak, 2005.
Hazāru vārdnīca. Leksikonromāns (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Rīga, Jāņa Rozes apgāds, 2006.
米洛拉德·帕维奇(Dictionary of the Khazars)
Shanghai, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, Bardon, 1997, 2013, 2013
Shanghai Translation Publishing House, Bardon, [Kindle Edition e-book], 2013.
Shanghai, Shanghai Translation Publishing House (luxurious edition), 2014.
מילון הכוזרים:רומן-לקסיקון ב-000, 100 מלים (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Tel Aviv, Ma’ariv Book Guild, 1990.
Хазарски речник (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Табернакул, Скопје, 2007.
Từ điển Khazar (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Nhà xuất bản Văn hóa Thông tin, 2004.
Kamus Khazar: Sebuah Novel Leksikon’ (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Penerbit, PT. Serambi Ilmu Semesta, 2009.
Fjalori Kazar, roman leksikon me 100 000 fjalë (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Onufri, Tirana, 2012.
- قاموس خزران (Dictionary of the Khazars)
Nashre Markaz, Teheran, 2018.
8 performances in: Serbia, Slovenia, Russia, Czech Republic, USA, Poland and Germany. See: Pavić in Theatre
Dictionary of the Khazars – Theatre Osobniak, directed by Alexei Sliusarchuk, 2002 – Saint Petersburg
Dictionary of the Khazars – Pandur theatres, directed by Tomaz Pandur, 2002 – Belgrade, Ljubljana
Dictionary of the Khazars – Pandur theatres, directed by Tomaz Pandur, 2003 – Novi Sad (Sterijino pozorje)
Dictionary of the Khazars – Multimedia show in Jewish temple , 2003 – Praha
Dictionary of the Khazars – Neue Akzente festival, directed by Dorothea Schroeder and Nina Guhlstorff, 2003 – Augsburg
Dictionary of the Khazars – 45 Bleecker Theatre, directed by Erica Gould, 2003 – New York
Słownik Chazarski. Dzieci Snów – Teatar Jana Kochanowskiego, directed by Paweł Passini; 11. 02. 2012. – Opole, Poland
Translated into 36 languages, the Dictionary of the Khazars tells of the fate of those people whose fate is uncertain and leading them towards disappearance, as happened to the Khazars, an ancient and powerful tribe whose origin has remained unexplained. The Khazar kingdom, rival to the Byzantine empire, disappeared from the historical scene many centuries ago, together with the people who built it.
One French publisher of this book said that the Khazars are better known today thanks to Pavić's novel than they were in the day of their mightiest rise and empire. The Khazar princess Ateh is a magical character who brings poetry into the novel, and the strength of the female principle.
Dictionary of the Khazars has a male and a female version, and the reader can also find both in the “androgynous” edition of this curious book, which is already among the classics of the 20th century and has been called the first novel of the 21st century. One of the reasons for the huge success of the Dictionary of the Khazars lies in its unusual sentence structure. In the Dictionary of the Khazars Pavić, the father of hypertext, as critics sometimes called him, set the pattern for non-linear writing. This is a truly a book in which the reader can chose his own reading path. Computers have calculated that there are over two million ways in which this novel can be read.
A international 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, which are identical save for seventeen crucial lines, Dictionary is the imaginary book of knowledge of the Khazars, a people who flourished somewhere beyond Eurasia 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.
I wrote Dictionary of the Khazars (1984) as a “lexicon novel”. It can be read as dictionaries are used. I made sure that each term in my “dictionary” can be read either before or after any other term. So the work lost beginning or end, for each reader can give it a beginning or end wherever he chooses to start or finish reading, In translation the positions of the terms changed in every alphabet, but that did not affect the entirety of the book at all. I added a "male" and a "female" version, and in the 21st century I united those versions and made an androgynous edition."
"No chronology will be observed here, nor is one necessary. Hence each reader will put together the book for himself, as in 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 you [...] cannot get more out of the truth than what you put into it."
PREFACE TO THE ANDROGYNOUS EDITION OF DICTIONARY OF THE KHAZARS
As I perceive them, arts are divided into the “reversible” and the “irreversible”. There are arts that enable the beneficiary (recipient) to approach the piece from different sides, or even to circle around it and view it, changing the direction from which it is seen as the viewer sees fit, as is the case with architecture, sculpting or painting, which are reversible. Then there are the other, irreversible arts, such as music or literature, which resemble one-way streets, through which everything moves from start towards finish, from birth towards death. I have long since wished to turn literature, which is an irreversible art, into a reversible one. Thus my novels have no beginning or end in the classical sense of the word. They are created as non-linear narratives.
For example, Dictionary of the Khazars has the structure of a lexicon: it is a lexicon novel in 100,000 words. And depending on the alphabet in different languages the novel ends differently. The original version of the Dictionary of the Khazars printed in the Cyrillic script ends with a Latin quote: “… sed venit ut illa impleam et con firmem, Mattheus.” My novel in the Greek translation ends with the sentence: "I immediately noticed that inside me were three fears, not one." The Hebrew, Spanish, English and Danish versions of Dictionary of the Khazars end like this: “Then, when the reader returned, the entire process would be reversed, and Tibbon would correct the translation on the basis of the impressions he had derived from this reading walk.” The Chinese and Korean editions of this book also end with that sentence. The Serbian version printed in Latin script, the Swedish version published by Nordstedts, the Dutch, Czech and German versions all end with the sentence: “That look spelled Cohen's name in the air, lit the wick, and illuminated her way home.” The Hungarian edition of Dictionary of the Khazars ends with the sentence: “He simply wanted to draw your attention to your true nature." The French, Italian and Catalonian versions end with the sentence: “Indeed, the Khazar jar serves to this day, although it has long since ceased to exist.”… The Japanese edition published by Tokio Zogen Sha ends with the sentence: “The girl had given birth to a mercurial daughter—her own death. In that death her beauty was divided into whey and curdled milk, and at the bottom was a mouth holding the root of the reed.”
When speaking of different endings to one book, it should be noted that the Dictionary of the Khazars at its end has something like a sexual organ. It appeared in 1984 both in the male and in the female version, and the reader was given a choice as to which version to read.
I have frequently been asked what the essence of the difference between the male and the female copies of my book is. The thing is that a man experiences the world outside of himself, in the universe, while a woman carries the universe inside her. This difference can be seen both in the male and in the female version of my novel. It is a picture, if you will, of the falling apart of time, which divided into collective male and individual female time. That is what Jasmina Mihajlovic writes about in her piece entitled: “Reading and Gender”.
As such, bearing its multiple endings, its female and its male sex, “half an animal”, as Anthony Burgess said about this book, the Dictionary of the Khazars traveled the world from Europe to both Americas and back through Japan, China and Russia. Sharing the good and the bad fortune of its writer and of my other books (cf: http.www.khazars.com).
Announced in the Paris Match as the first book of the 21st century, the Dictionary of the Khazars now enters the 21st century and the age of Aquarius only in the female version, which the reader is holding in his hand, while he is given the male version to review in this preface. So while in the 20th century the book was a bisexual species, in the 21st century it became a hermaphrodite. Androgynous. Or something incestuous. In this new form forced upon us by the publishing economy, we can imagine a book as a place in which female time contains male time. The passage in the female version of the novel that differs from the male version is in the last letter of this book, after the sentence: “And he gave me a few of the Xeroxed sheets of paper lying on the table in front of him.”
This male member of the book, this Khazarian tree entering the female version of the novel, reads as follows:
“I could have pulled the trigger at that moment. I could not have had a better one – there was but a single witness in the garden – and a child at that. But it played out differently. I reached forward and took those several exciting pages, which I attach to the letter. Taking them instead of shooting, I looked at those Saracen fingers with nails like hazelnuts and thought of the tree that Halevi mentions in his book about the Khazars. I thought that every one of us is such a tree: the more we grow upwards towards the sky, through the winds and the rain towards God, the deeper we have to sink with our roots into the mud and ground waters towards Hell. With such thoughts I read the pages handed to me by the Saracen with the green eyes. They amazed me and I asked Dr. Muawia in disbelief where he had gotten them from.”
Dictionary of the Khazars is probably the first novel of the 21st century.
In truth, this is a book that is best read just about any way except cover to cover. For all its seeming complexity, it surrenders easily - even gratefully - to a reconstructed reading, and there are probably fewer choices for doing that than the author would have us believe.
There are books that cause something like chemical reaction in the reader. Dictionary of the Khazars contains that kind of poison.
Angela Carter, London Review of Books
The Yugoslav writer Milorad Pavic’s Dictionary of the Khazars is an exercise in a certain kind of erudite frivolity that does not do you good as such, but offers the cerebral pleasure of the recognition of patterning afforded by formalism, a profusion of language games, some rude mirth. In culinary terms, the book is neither tofuburger nor Big Mack, but a Chinese banquet, a multiplicity of short narratives and prose fragments at which we are invited, not to take our fill, but to snack as freely or as meagrely as we please on a wide variety of small portions of sharply flavoured delicacies, mixing and matching many different taste sensations. In other words, it is not like a novel by Penelope Lively. It will not set you up; nor will it tell you how to live. That is not what it is for.
A dictionary is a book that, while requiring little time every day, takes a lot of time through the years. So noted Milorad Pavic in his all-absorbing Dictionary of the Khazars. This was no plain historical work about a vanquished 10th-century Caspian race. Subtitled "a lexicon novel in 100,000 words" it is divided into three sections, each arranged as a reference work, one overlapping with another so that time and space take further, even limitless twists across hundreds of years. It incorporates fable, myth, romance, a sabre manual, etymology, science, lute music, history – and purported history.
Peter B. Golden, Khazar Studies
Pavic knows that after the fall of Khazaria, some Khazars found their way to Spain. He then proceeds to invent special traditions and customs associated with them. And some characters are entirely the products of his fertile imagination, for example, the Khazar Princess Ateh.... Strictly speaking, then, this is not a historical novel. There is no plot in the traditional sense, no extrapolation from bare sources to give flesh and blood to characters. Rather, it is plot and character run wild. The ''facts'' of Khazar and medieval Slavic history, often elusive and ambiguous, are toyed with, made to perform, given extraordinary twists and turns that delight and perplex. However outrageous the flights of fantasy, the charm and gentle humanity of the author are our sure guide in this difficult terrain.
Notwithstanding the age in which the story is set, his manuscript is as though written by the wise hand of ancient, sacral, mythical and magical high priests and magicians who hold in their hand the secret of man’s fate, and open it only after great exploits and ordeals have been accomplished, when man can change nothing more...
B. Mikasinovich, World Literature Today
I have always maintained that tradition is bound to produce selected inclinations and superior achievement… In Pavić’s case, I have a distinct feeling that two centuries of literary tradition have crystallized him into a great novelist…
Charles Fenyvesi, The Washington Times
What a spooky, zany, preposterous masterpiece… This a virtuoso forgery surpassing the value of the non-existent original; in short, a brilliant polychrome yarn spun by a compulsively Homeric storyteller…
Douglas Seibold, Chicago Tribune
A book so complex and idiosyncratic that it defies easy summary. Its author, Milorad Pavić, born in 1929, is a Yugoslavian poet and professor as well as a novelist; and if Serbo-Croatian writing hasn’t enjoyed the vogue in the west that other eastern European literatures have, perhaps Pavić’s novel will change that. Dictionary of the Khazars rivals Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose in wit, invention and intellect and exceeds it in sheer whodunit intricacy.
Michael Dirda, Washington Post
As with Borges, or Garcia Marquez… Pavić knows how to support his textual legerdemain with superb portrait miniatures and entrancing anecdotes.
Robert Coover, The New York Times Book Review
He thinks the way we dream… There are some written narratives often thought of as innovative. Such a book is the Yugoslav poet and scholar Milorad Pavić’s witty and playful Dictionary of the Khazars, which, with its chronologically disturbed alphabetized entries and its cross-referencing symbols, allows each reader to “put together the book for himself, as in a game of dominos or cards.” The reader may pursue a topic as with a dictionary, read the book from beginning to end, from left to right or right to left, or even “diagonally”, working “in threes”. He may even, Mr. Pavić suggests, “read the way he eats: he can use his right eye as a fork, his left as a knife, and toss the bones over his shoulder.
World & I, Washington
Rarely does a novel from Yugoslavia take the European reading public by storm, as has Milorad Pavić’s Dictionary of the Khazars.
Paul Gray, Time Magazine
Pavić’s simulacrum of historical research portrays a gallery of people madly pursuing the truth of an event that may never have occurred. And those who enter the claustrophobic world of this novel will find themselves involved in the same folly. They will want to know what really happened, and they will fail. But the impression of frustration fades before the enchantment of the quest.
H.J. Kirchhoff, The Globe and Mail, Toronto
Strange novel enjoys international reputation… Mega-hit!
Robert Irwin, The Listener, London
Pavić has taken advantage of the reference-book format to create something that is both a parody of academic scholarship and a non-linear narrative of mystery and romance… Dictionary of the Khazars is, as the author warns, a classic of modern fantasy.
Nicholas Rothwell, The Weekend Australian
Dictionary is a book firmly turned towards life’s most smiling, poignant side – a book that is both universal and uniquely the product of this quirky imagination.
T.J. Binyon, Literary Review, London
There is a charming playfulness about the book which makes it both accessible and pleasing to read. It is well on the way to becoming a cult novel of the year in the States…
The Philadelphia Enquirer
Pavić’s novels could be classified as magic realism… It’s an experiment in flight, an attempt to defy the gravity of ordinary life. It’s also the only novel I know of where the heroine falls in love with the reader. Who could resist that? We have no choice but to fall in love right back.
A book can be a vineyard watered with rain or a vineyard watered with wine.
This one, like all dictionaries, is of the latter variety.
A dictionary is a book that, while requiring little time every day, takes a lot of time through the years. This loss should not be underestimated.
Especially if one takes into account that reading is, generally speaking, a dubious proposition. When used, a book can be cured or killed in the reading.
It can be changed, fattened, or raped. Its course can be re-channeled; it is constantly losing something; you drop letters through the lines, pages through your fingers, as new ones keep growing before your eyes, like cabbage. If you put it down tomorrow, you may find it like a stove gone cold, with no hot supper waiting for you any more. Moreover, today people do not have enough solitude to be able to read books, even dictionaries, without harm. But to this too there is an end.
A book is like a scale—it tilts first to the right until it tilts to the left, forever.
Its weight thus shifts from the right hand to the left, and something similar has happened in the head—-from the realm of hope, thoughts have moved to the realm of memory, and everything is over.
The reader's ear may perhaps retain some of the saliva from the writer's mouth, words borne by the wind with a grain of sand at the bottom.
Over the years, voices will settle around that grain, as in a shell, and one day it will turn into a pearl, into black goat-cheese, or into a void when the ears shut like a shell.
And least of all does this depend on the sand.
Reviews of the readers
The form of this book is as interesting as its content: It isn't necessarily linear at all.
This is a completely fictional account of the disappearance of an entire culture. The land of the Khazars was geographically located at the intersection of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and this is an encyclopedia (entry by entry) relating each religion's perspective on which of them converted the heathen race.
Dreams and the supernatural are casually woven into this intricately self-referential work. It reads a lot like Arabian Nights, and I mean that in the best of ways.
I would've given it four stars for my enjoyment level, but then I sat and thought, how on earth could this book be improved? There is no way it could be better. My enjoyment comes from a mild inability to concentrate on one thing at a time, and a terrible need to finish a good book right away when I've started it, and these are the enjoyment-limiting things I encountered, neither of which are the book's fault, unless, of course, it's by virtue of the fact that this is a fine, fine book which I did not want to be stopped from finishing in one go.
Told in multiple ways, the writing slips from narrative to nonsensical, fact to myth, legend to fantasy in the same breath, but everything fits together so perfectly that it is never a strain to read; you're led - or, sometimes, dragged - by the hand through the repeating circles of characters, concepts and tales, which round out progressively to something far greater than the sum of their parts, with a final tying of its knots coming only in the appendices.
The whole novel seems to be like a dream conjured up by Pavic for us readers. We readers get inside the dream, trying to make sense of the novel as a complete whole, which in turn would lead us to Adam Cadmon/Ruhani, the first father, who in the case of the novel is Pavic himself. Pavic meanwhile is waiting for us, but as is the case with the real world, I don't think we can achieve it but just get one perspective. Maybe each reader could be a dream hunter, searching for other readers of the novel (innumerable Avrams, Masudis, Cohens) and if all readers of the novel come together we may have a 'Readers Dictionary of The Dictionary of the Khazars'. Sounds weird? Well, call it the Pavic effect, but I am not out of it yet
So what is this Lexicon novel about? Many things, but identity is a big one as is the concept of truth. Take your time with this one. Stop, think, pause, mull and enjoy.
This was hard to rate because it is so untraditional in its format. It is, as the inside cover says, a bit reminiscent of the Arabian Nights, but only in that it has numerous tales. The stories are far more woven together, though never blatantly. And everything has a focus, that of the lost Khazars. It's simply hard to describe, but it is a really rewarding read, and is well designed for dealing with a bit at a time. The stories rarely progress or end as one might expect, and the constant surprises were pleasing. I constantly found myself wondering how much the author took from real sources, and how much he made up. Maybe it's entirely fictional, but in the end it doesn't matter. The book will open your eyes to seeing the world in a different light, at least for a little while.
This book is probably one of those which improves each time you read it. Only with multiple readings can you really grasp the often bewildering philosophies and unravel the ties across cultures and across centuries.