Last Love in Constantinople – a tarot-novel

Last Love in Constantinople – a tarot-novel

Original title: Poslednja ljubav u Carigradu

 

Basic book data

About 30 editions translated into 14 languages: Russian, English, French, Spanish, Slovenian, Slovak, Romanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Greek, Japanese, Georgian and Chinese.

First edition: Belgrade 1994, Dereta, 195 pages; 22 tarot cards

  1. Последняя любовь в Константинополе (Last Love in Constantinople) (15)
    Москва, ИЛ, 1997.
    Санкт-Петербург, Азбука, 1999, 2000, 2001(2), 2002, 2003(3), 2004, 2005, 2007. Санкт-Петербург, Амфора 2010.
    Последняя любовь в Константинополе (audio book) (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Союз, 2006.
    Лениздат – классика, 2013.

  2. Last Love in Constantinople
    Peter Owen Publishers, London, 1998.
    Dufour Editions, Pennsylvania, USA, 1999.
    Last love in Constantinople [Kindle Edition e-book] Amazon.com, Kindle Store, 2012.

  3. Dernier amour a Constantinople (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Les editions noir sur blanc, Paris, 2000.

  4. El ultimo amor en Constantinopla (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Akal Literaria, Madrid, 2000.

  5. Poslednja ljubezen v Carigradu (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Ma-No, Nova Gorica, 2003, 2004.

  6. Posledná láska v Carihrade (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Bratislava, Slovart, 2007.

  7. Ultima iubire la Tarigrad (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Bucuresti, Editura Paralela 45, 2006.

  8. Istanbul da Son Ask (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Istanbul, Agate Yayinlari, 2000.

  9. Последна любов в Цариград (Last Love in Constantinople)
    София, Народна култура, 1998.
    София, Колибри, 2008.

  10. Остання любов в Царгородi (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Львив, Класика, 1999.
    Харкiв, Фолиiо, 2006.

  11. H τελευταία αγάπη στην Kωνσταντινούπολη (Last Love in Constantinople)
    ΕΣΤΙΑΣ, ΑΘΗΝΑ, 1997.

  12. 帝都最後の恋(Last love in Constantinople)
    Tokyo, Shoraisha, 2009.

  13. უკანასკნელისიყვარულიკონსტანტინოპოლში (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Tbilisi, 2005, 2007.
    http://www.parnasi.ge/?Theme=0&st=0&src=%E1%83%9E%E1%83%90%E1%83%95%E1%83%98%E1%83%A

  14. 君士坦丁堡最后之恋 (Last Love in Constantinople)
    Shanghai, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 2016.

 

Overview

 

Last Love in Constantinople follows the reversing fortunes of two generations of two families - one of merchants, the other of artists - across Europe during the time of the Napoleonic wars. In this novel, the reader is invited, through the use of the tarot card illustrations supplied with the book, to obtain a unique reading of the text. The families' interlocking fates may be divined by dealing the cards and reading the chapters in the order indicated. The book also contains instructions for its use as an oracle for foretelling the reader's own fortune.

The adventures of a Serbian cavalry officer during the Napoleonic Wars. The novel comes with a pack of tarot cards and the way they turn up determines the sequence in which the chapters should be read.

*

Poslednja ljubav u Carigradu (1994, Last Love in Constantinople) has an innovative game-oriented twist as Landscape Painted with Tea: Subtitled A Tarot Novel of Divination the book is accompanied by a pack of Tarot cards, which the reader may use to read in a new way the books 21 chapters. This postmodernist experimentation has much in common with Julio Cortázar's novel Hopscotch (1963). Last Love in Constantinople is a colorful romance set in Eastern Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. The protagonist is Sofronije Opujic, a young cavalryman, whose service in Napoleon's army is complicated by a mysterious prophecy and love for the daughter of his father's enemy.

*

Landscape Painted with Tea is a novel that takes the form of a crossword puzzle; The Inner Side of the Wind can be read from front to back as well as back to front. Equally ambitious in its ingenuity is Last Love in Constantinople, which proves to be a worthy addition to the impressive oeuvre of a literary pioneer.

*

The subtitle of this book is – A Tarot Novel for Divination. The secrets of the tarot are the skeleton of the poetry and drama of this novel which comes with a set of tarot cards. how your tarot cards turn up, so will the story of this book be revealed and composed.

 

 

Milorad Pavić

 

Last Love in Constantinople - A Tarot Novel for Divination is a tarot novel in which the reader can tell his own fortune by throwing cards on the table and then reading the chapters, each of which is connected to one of the cards. Of course the reader can give the cards that come with the book away and read the book like any other novel. The additional option of divination is actually the writer’s gift to the reader.

Using the tarot cards that come with the book and the 22 chapters bearing the same names as the cards, the reader can turn reading into soothsaying and foretell his or somebody else’s fate. Each chapter of the novel is at the same time an interpretation of one of the tarot cards. This novel would be very suitable for the Internet, where digital turning of cards combined with reading individual chapters would be much simpler than in the book.

 

 

Reviews

 

Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed Serbian novelist Pavic, best known here for his Dictionary of the Khazars offers another nonlinear novel that the reader is invited to experience in multiple ways. The book is divided into 21 chapters, or "keys", which are meant to parallel the 21 cards of the Tarot known as "The Major Arcana." Guides to the cards' meaning and the main patterns for laying them out are included in appendixes to the novel... Centering around two rival families, the Opujics and the Teneckis, who are enmeshed in a series of military and sexual adventures... Taken on their own, Pavic's brief chapters tend to be compelling and assured, the work of a skilled and unconventional storyteller whose oeuvre is clearly as much influenced by classic episodic works such as Don Quixote and The Decameron as by recent writers like Borges and Marquez.

 

Library Journal

Pavic has earned international acclaim for his experimental approach to narrative. In his previous novel, The Inner Side of the Wind, readers could turn chronology on its head by reading the book from the back or the front. The author's newest effort further develops this approach as chronology gives way to the serendipitous nature of fortune. The plot is tied to the meanings of the tarot, ancient playing cards used for fortune telling. Pavic uses the 22 symbols of the tarot constellation of the Major Arcana as keys to unfold his story and to ponder the secret of human destiny. Set at the turn of the 19th century, the story revolves around the military and romantic exploits of the Tenecki and Opujic families, whose lives are linked by fate. Each chapter adds to the development of the tale, but the work's open-ended nature makes it an ideal vehicle for plot experimentation. Thus, directions are given for laying out the cards (and chapters) for both reading and divination. And it works: whether read sequentially or according to the order of a deal, the novel is a fascinating, surrealistic dreamscape marked by vibrant, folkloric imagery. Recommended for public and academic libraries with adventuresome readers.

 

Jasmina Mihajlović (NIN)
It is an exciting, swift and tense novel, which reads easily, in a single drive, a single vigour and joy, and a strong lyric and erotic force... I think this will be the most widely-read of Pavic's books.

 

Zoran Gluščević (Politika)
Notwithstanding the age in which the story is set, the 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 any more, but only witness his own destiny... Pavic has told us a tale of one age, but it is a tale for all time.

 

Čedomir Mirković (Borba)
This is the fourth time now that Milorad Pavic manages to achieve in the form of the novel the ideal of modern literature: a new, personalized narrative form and a heady story with a multitude of symbolic meanings.

 

Aleksandar Jerkov (Borba)
In Last Love in Constantinople we find that wonderful literary imagination and poetically inspired language which secure Pavic a special place in modern literature... A place in every prose anthology.

 

Milisav Savić (Borba)
Fortunetelling means relying on the future... The Tarot never quite surrenders to attempts at systematization; something in it always escapes us. In this novel too, perhaps more even than in Pavic's previous works, there always remains something that escapes our interpretation. The sweetest dishes are those which, no matter how much we eat them, always offer a new flavour.

 

Vasa Pavković (Politika)
Last Love in Constantinople, Milorad Pavic's fourth novel, stands shoulder to shoulder with Dictionary of the Khazars... An effective bestseller, the kind of book our literature craves.

 

Mirjana Mitrović (Žena)
Last Love In Constantinople is a novel graced by exquisite, authentic eroticism... Some wise men know the woman's soul better than she knows herself. I believe Milorad Pavic is one of those men.

 

Djordje Pisarev (Dnevnik)
Books like this offer dreams to choose from, just like a rich bazaar.

 

Velimir Ćurguz Kazimir (Nada)
Fortunetelling cannot exist without the smell and contours of catastrophe. I have in mind that form of divination which is not just a card game but an obligatory confirmation of the age we live in... Reading the sediment on the bottom of a coffee cup, once a charming form of fortunetelling, has today taken on the proportions of a fight for survival. That is why Last Love in Constantinople, perhaps quite unconsciously, represents through adapted and modified tarot cards yet another form of metamorphosis, not only literary but also social.

 

Reviewed by Steven H. Silver

All of Milorad Pavic's novels have had some sort of gimmick which helps set them apart from other books published. Dictionary of the Khazars was designed to be read either straight through or by dipping into individual entries in a random order. Landscapes Painted in Tea had a crossword puzzle incorporated into the text and The Other Side of the Wind was written as two novellas which could be read in either order. Pavic continues this practice with Last Love in Constantinople: A Tarot Novel For Divination, in which the novel can be read straight through or in a random order generated by the laying down of Tarot Cards (a method Pavic describes in his introduction). Of course, a gimmick does not necessarily make a good novel.

I'll admit to having read Last Love in Constantinople in a boring, old-fashioned linear war, beginning at page 1 and running through to page 184 without resorting to the random shuffling of cards. Even reading Last Love in Constantinople in a linear fashion doesn't mean Pavic's tale is a linear tale.

Pavic's earlier novels take place in a world in which Europe still reigns supreme even if his characters live in backwater nations. In Last Love in Constantinople, Lieutenant Sofronije Opujic is a Croat separated from his father, whom everyone seems to know, during the Napoleonic Wars. Opujic has no memories of his mother, although he knows that he grew up in her household and wants to discover who she is.

As with Pavic's earlier novels, the characters in Last Love in Constantinople seem vaguely disjointed as they go about searching for their identities and place in the world. Although Pavic has demonstrated his ability to create memorable characters, all of his characters tend to lack a sense of realism. In fact, Pavic's world is a topsy-turvy world, not merely because of the vast war raging across Europe, but because causality does not exist in the sense that the modern world understands it. At one point, Opujic eats and drinks resulting in the satiation of somebody else's hunger and thirst, a fact which is readily accepted by those around him. However, whereas an author like Joseph Heller might use this to lampoon, Pavic and his characters take it at face value as part of their world.

One of Pavic's great strengths is his ability to weave superstitions into his books in realistic, if absurd, ways. An offhand remark about turning a mirror to the wall so it doesn't attract insects or placing garlic in one's ear to ward of demons, tells us more about Opujic's world view than Pavic's description of war-torn Europe. Nearly all of Pavic's characters have an understanding of their role in Europe as a whole. These roles appear to be true statements of their position even as the reader's logical mind tells him that the characters are delusional.

Each chapter can, in many ways, stand on its own, which is important since it allows them to be read in any order. At the same time, each chapter takes on a different flavor depending on the order in which they are read since the reader has the chance to bring different amounts and types of knowledge to each chapter, resulting in a tremendously varied book completely dependant on how the reader approaches the novel.

Pavic's writing is dense and poetic (he was known for his poetry before his prose), and will not be for everyone's taste. The absurdity of his character's situations and Pavic's own refusal to acknowledge that absurdity, will further turn some readers off his writing. While Last Love in Constantinople doesn't have the impact of Pavic's first novel, A Dictionary of the Khazars, it is a strong book which a reader will want to think about rather than rush through.

*

Milorad Pavic cannot help but create a text that extends the conventional boundaries of the novel: his Dictionary of the Khazars is perhaps the most genuinely realized example of hypertext this side of cyberspace, allowing the reader to begin virtually at any point in the novel and digress ad infinitum; Landscape Painted with Tea is a novel that takes the form of a crossword puzzle; The Inner Side of the Wind can be read from front to back as well as back to front. Equally ambitious in its ingenuity is Last Love in Constantinople, which proves to be a worthy addition to the impressive oeuvre of a literary pioneer.

*

Author of this book should qualify as an inventor of the unique style of writing that incorporates magical realism, surrealism and pure scientific invention. It is true that Milorad Pavic wrote better books than this one, but one must admit that writing a book where each chapter represents untold tale of tarot cards is truly original. And does anyone ever gets the full story after cards are read? It appears that there is always something unsaid or unfinished about card reading - tarot or not. The book treats the story the same. In addition to beatiful illustrations done by Ivan Pavic, book contains clusters of wisdom. My favorite one includes the conversation between two lovers, where one says: "We are happy lovers. Aren't we? And happines makes one stupid. Happiness and wisdom do not go together, just as body and thought do not go together. Because only pain is the thought of the body." For readers looking for something new and different, this is a perfect find.

 

Reviews of the readers

 

  • This book, as well as all other Pavich books are amazing in the real sense of the word. There is a plot but most of the time it doesn't really matter what the story is all about. The books are written in sort of a circle - you can open any page and start from there.
    The language is vivid, slippery like a snake in the desert – you can follow it, you can see its traces but you can never guess where it’s leading you. It’s beautiful and tidy, like a pearl necklace – the words are beaded one after the other in logic of their own.
    This particular story is based on the tarot cards - short stories depicting the lives and wars of two Serbian families from Trieste.
    Bookworm heaven!

  • In 1988 Milorad Pavic burst upon the literary scene with his critically acclaimed, international best seller, Dictionary of the Khazars. In it he asked his readers to experience his book in a new and exciting way, as he challenged their traditional concepts of the reading process. In his next two novels, Landscape Painted With Tea and The Inner Side of the Wind, he continued to challenge as he joined a modern Odyssey with a crossword puzzle, and then he told the same tale of two lovers from two perspectives -- male and female -- and asked us to read it from either front or back. His new novel, Last Love in Constantinople, does not disappoint, as Pavic once again demonstrates himself to be a master of narrative legerdemain.

  • Even reading Last Love in Constantinople in a linear fashion doesn't mean Pavic's tale is a linear tale.

  • There is a bouyancy and ebullience to this book. It revels in how magical stories can be and, in addition, how magical we can be if we let ourselves. Reading Pavic novels feels like doing a puzzle where there is no last piece. And its a delightful frustration.