Monday, February 22, 1999

Dictionary Of the Khazars

by Milorad Pavić
translated by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric

I read the female version - though this differs from the male version in only one paragraph.  Anyway, an original "novel," told as three different dictionaries: the Christian, the Muslim, and the Jewish versions of entries roughly concerned with the Khazars.  Some entries are in all three versions, such as the Khazar polemic, in which representatives from the three religions visited the Khazar kaghan to convince him, by clever repartee and dream interpretation, to convert to that faith.  But there are independent stories as well: the egg that contained days, the Khazar jar without a bottom...

The book’s language is compelling and poetic, a otherworldly text-scape in which days are physical things and everything is a language and languages are alive and time goes backwards and forwards.  At times this drifts into tiring quasi-poetic babble, but for the most part it’s a fascinating construction, as the lives of the key players (the Khazar princess, the three polemic representative, the three chroniclers, the three 10th-century scholars studying the polemic) converge in reincarnations over space and time and especially dreams.  Probably bears another reading.

four stars

No comments:

Post a Comment