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Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  5,693 ratings  ·  417 reviews
Somewhere on the borders of what is now Russia, in the late 9th century A.D., the great kaghan, ruler of the Khazars, summons the three leading scholars of the known world—Christian, Jewish, Moslem—to debate before the court which religion he and his people will adopt. This is the last thing we know about the Khazars, for in the immediate aftermath of this event, the tribe ...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published February 13th 1989 by Hamish Hamilton (first published 1983)
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Start your review of Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words
Glenn Russell
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books

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 o
Dictionary of the Khazars is a work of fiction written by Milorad Pavic relating to the factual khanate of the Khazars, the actual, yet debatable and certainly obscure, conversion of the Khazars to Judaism and the mysterious remnants of the Khazar civilisation.

 * * * 

World religion to which the Khazars did not convert to. Christian sources form one part of the potentially annoying Dictionary of the Khazars.

Process of change from one state to another typically underg
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, funny, fiction, bizarre
5 minutes ago some customer at my job proceeded to tell me about an episode of Doctor Phil he saw where an obese women lost weight by smoking crack (this is the third time today this man has told me this story.) Then he saw this book on my desk and said "Oh god, you're not really into that stuff are you?" I don't know what he assumed this book was about, I just finished it and I'm still not quite sure what it's about (but it was great, that much I know.) Apparently what ever he thought it was ab ...more
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of books about books about books
Recommended to Gregsamsa by: Aubrey
What a mad wild swirling cocktail of a book. Suicide, the children's definition: The soda-fountain concoction that results when you mix a little of every flavor in one big cup.

Imagine such a slushy stir of Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, David Mitchell, Jan Potocki, and a healthy slug of Sheharazade.

The Facts: In the 8th Century the semi-nomadic Khazars sat at the East-West tollbooth junction on the Silk Road, providing buffer state status to
Vit Babenco
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dictionary of the Khazars is a heap of a novel or, probably, even a mountain – everything: religion, mythology, history, mysticism, faith, beliefs and superstitions are packed in a huge pile and every reader must sort it out one’s own way.
Avram Brankovich's second, younger son was at the time stretched out somewhere in Bachka behind a motley stove built like a church, and he was suffering. It was rumored that the devil had pissed on him and that the child would get up at night, flee from the hou
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bᴜᴅᴠᴀ—A town on the Montenegrin coast, pop. 13,000. According to Stephanus of Byzantium, writing in the 6th century CE, Budva was founded by Cadmus, the grandson of Poseidon and first king of Thebes, who had journeyed up the coast in his old age with his wife Harmonia. Inhabited for at least 2,500 years, Budva is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic, and the centre of Montenegro's small but important tourist industry. It was here in 2007 that Warwickº bought a copy of Dictionary of the ...more
I am doing a project in which I read all 1001 of the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" as stated by a book in this stupid and arbitrary series of different stuff you have to do before you die. It is dumb and I will never finish it, but now that I started, I am pretty set on continuing.

The thing that makes it the most dumb is that these books are chosen by someone who has like, really different taste from me. I hated "Naked Lunch." Now I plan to pretty much hate this book, but I guess it
Philippe Malzieu
I adore this book. I have the impression to live at Renaissance time. It is an encyclopaedic project or the imagination competes for it in the reality. An esthète pleasure for gentilhomme. It should be sold in japon paper cover by calf pure leather, title in gold leaf. I have well on bought from the time the male version. If I compared to female version, I did not find that the 17 lines of difference changed so much this book.
I remember the writer during the TV program Apostrophe. A small discre
Ian "Marvin" Graye
On Dictionaries

This novel isn’t the single dictionary its title suggests. In fact, it contains three separate dictionaries, although they are more encyclopaedias or encyclopaedic dictionaries. Even then, they don’t purport to be complete or comprehensive. Each dictionary in this “mosaic portrait” consists of only 14, 15 or 16 entries. Of these, only four appear in all three dictionaries (Ateh, Khagan, Khazars, and Khazar Polemic).

The only characteristic that justifies the use of the term “dictio
Jake Thomas
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like literary aerobics
Recommended to me after I'd talked up Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, this book could be, and often has been, cited as one of Danielewski's predecessors. It's one of those books you could spend a whole year with, unpacking it, taking notes, analyzing and cross-referencing, or you could just read and enjoy.

The book is divided into three dictionaries focused around exploring The Khazar Polemic, a fictionalized account of the mass conversion of the Khazar people in which the representatives
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
<< […] Abraham ben Ezra lived in a little house by the sea. Aromatic plants always grew around it, and since the winds could not disperse the scents they carried them like carpets from place to place. One day, Abraham ben Ezra noticed that the scents had changed. That was because he felt FEAR. At first the fear inside him was as deep as his youngest soul; then it descended to Ezra’s middle-aged, and then to his third, oldest soul. Finally, the fear ran deeper than the souls in ben Ezra, and he c ...more
Sep 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balkan
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, br
Paul Fulcher
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
A wonderful book and one I will return to with pleasure in future years.

The basis for the novel is the true story of the Khazars - a semi-nomadic people that rapidly created a powerful empire in the 7th Century and then just as rapidly disappeared in the 10th. They left behind relatively little reliable historic records, and the vacuum has been filled by myth: this novel is an imaginative contribution to their reconstructured history.

The centre of the novel is an event that is recorded in histor
I have like no clue what I just read. I'll rate it 3 stars, but I might change it later.
I can only say the following: dafq was this book?
K.J. Charles
Basically a tripartite dictionary structure giving three different versions of the same event for the reader to piece together. I've read 1.5 of the three and feel no compulsion to read 1.5 more.

I dare say I'm not clever enough to read this very clever book *slow blink* but to a humble genre-fiction reader, it seems very like a ton of fantasy world building and no plot. This is intentional, as apparently the author was trying to "disrupt the traditional models of fiction writing such as the dev
It is those who actually differ among themselves who pose the greatest danger. They long to meet one another, because their differences do not bother them. And they are the worst. We and our enemies will combine forces to fight those who allow us to differ from them and do not let this difference disturb their sleep; we will destroy them in one fell swoop from three sides...

-Nikon Savast, a.k.a. Satan
I'd be mightily pleased if the back cover claim of "A national bestseller" proved true,
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An extraordinary experimental novel, containing one of the most beautiful definitions of the process of reading I have ever read:

…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 rechanneled; 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
Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic, A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words, is a lyrical description of the events surrounding the so-called "Khazar Polemic" and conversion of the Khazar people. Written as an encyclopedia containing cross-referenced entries between three different sections (Christian, Muslim, Jewish), it relates the efforts of various scholars to pin down exactly what happened at the Khazar court when the Khagan invited representatives from the three religions to hold a discus ...more
Ned Rifle
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Goodreads recomendation system first brought the Dictionary of the Khazars to my attention,and for that I am glad. Having been intrigued by the premise I was lucky enough to come across a cheap copy only a short while later, and it was with hope that I advanced.

The introduction (part of the book, mind) tells us that we can read in any way or order we please,I in my cowardice plumped for habit and went from front to back.

The book is ostensibly mainly concerned with the mass conversion of th
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I wrote in my review of John Berger's novel "G"--

"Like what I said in my review of Zamyatin's "We," I believe I've found a fair explanation of why the books included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die made it on the list, and this I found in another listing, the 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die where the Introduction explained the choices by these justifications:

1. the painting (book) is interesting because of its subject matter;
2. the painting (book) is interesting because
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a feat of world-building. It presents itself as a lexicon, forcing the reader to explore its story by topic, rather than through a straight-forward succession of chapters. Little is spelt out, and instead the reader has to piece together connections between each dictionary entry. This connection-building can be challenging, but the actual reading experience isn't as hard work as it might sound. Each entry is reasonably long, and each entry could probably be seen as a short story in ...more
Harry Collier IV
Dictionary of the Khazars aims to reimagine where books (stories) begin and end. Pavic makes no secret of his desire to allow the story to become fluid and have the reader explore that which is of interest to him -since this is the female version of his book perhaps we should say that which is of interest to her.
I like this idea and on previous readings of this book I have been surprised by how interesting it all was. I don't believe I ever completed a whole section without skipping to another t
Where does one start with trying to explain what the 'Dictionary of Khazars' is about and how does one try to explain it as coherently as possible even if he makes a start at some point. The novel itself is structured in such a way that it does not lend to the conventional ways of telling about it. So, instead I will try to just write down my thoughts on this, however abstract they may appear. I look at this novel from 3 view points, which I think as a whole enhances the impact of it.
Borges wrot
Bob Newman
In the chameleon dreams of deepest bicycles, a tulip

Are you ready for this ? Do you want a novel with a plot, tangible characters, and the usual narrative style ? OK, forget this book. You are flying over an unknown land, maybe New Guinea, below all is steep mountain and impenetrable jungle. It's a land sparsely inhabited by utterly different people. You fly through some clouds, get lost. Now how will you navigate ? It's all so beautiful, but where are you going? You look down and in the immorta
A.E. Shaw
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I don't understand why finding this book on a borrowing shelf was the first I'd ever heard of it. It seems like something absolutely timeless and classic, and it completely floored me with its simultaneous complexity and simplicity. It's written with such confidence that its unusual structure feels obvious and logical, and, whilst I'm sure you could read it in all the ways the introduction suggests and get much more from it, going the traditional beginning to end way does indeed also work very w ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came to this book via a slightly tortuous route. I recently read Alex Pheby’s Mordew, a book which I didn’t really enjoy that much except for the glossary at the end. It wasn’t the contents of the glossary that attracted me as much as the idea of it: it seemed that it was a novel presented as a kind of encyclopaedia. That was a new idea for me, so when a friend, Paul, re-posted his review of this book, I was immediately keen to take a look as it seemed someone had done what I admired in Mordew ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism
This author can write! An inspiring, rich, funny, heartbreaking story.
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Dictionary of the Khazars is a fabulous work in the style of Borges - a largely invented history (though including references to real people and places) with a largely invented scholarly apparatus in the footnotes and cross-references to support it. The formal innovation is casting it as a series of alphabetically organized encyclopedia entries, but in three parts with some entries repeated in all three but many not. There are several stories told and re-told in many variations and while the ...more
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Despite all its shortcomings, this is surely one of the best novels I've ever read. The structure makes the possibilities endless, rendering any fear of spoiler illusory, making the act of turning over the last page obsolete (there is no last page if you come to think about it). It's wonderful how these late-blooming authors (Pavic, Eco) produced their finest works at the beginning of their career. Maybe it took them all those decades to write their first books, each word in them summing up days ...more
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Milorad Pavić was a Serbian poet, prose writer, translator, and literary historian.

Pavić wrote five novels which were translated into English: Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel, Landscape Painted With Tea, Inner Side of the Wind, Last Love in Constantinople and Unique Item as well as many short stories not in English translation.

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