The OF Blog: Author Spotlight: Milorad Pavić

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Author Spotlight: Milorad Pavić

For a relatively small country of about 10 million, Serbia has turned out quite a few impressive writers over the past century. Regulars here already know about my love of Zoran Živković's, but the country has produced other illustrious names such as Ivo Andrić, Danilo Kiš, Goran Petrović, David Albahari, and the author pictured to the left, Milorad Pavić.

Out of these authors, Pavić is perhaps the most experimental. A devotee of Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, Pavić has vowed to explore ways in which to make the reading experience a unique one each and every time that a story of his is published. His first novel, The Dictionary of the Khazars, published in English in 1988, takes the form of an encyclopedia in which three variant explanations as to the religious path that the very real (and quite obscure) Khazar people might have taken in the 9th century CE. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sections, each with their own color coding, allows for the reader to read any of these sections and their interconnected terms (think Wikipedia-like hyperlinks before HTML was more than the twinkle in the eye of its developers) in whatever fashion suits them best.

In his second novel, Landscape Painted With Tea, Pavić utilizes the form of a crossword puzzle to construct a tale in which the "Across" and "Down" sections may be read in their own groupings before the other is processed. While I did not find the metanarrative to be quite as intriguing as in Dictionary, on the whole the story works. As these are the only two novels of his I have read to date, I cannot share much more than tarot cards are used in one novel, personalized endings for a second, and something called a "delta novel" for an upcoming release of his.

For readers curious to sample Pavić's work for free, I discovered on the author's English-language site that he has posted a full novel earlier this year called Second Body. I shall endeavor to read and perhaps review it in the near future. But in the meantime, I do urge those of you reading this who enjoy nonstandard approaches to writing/reading fiction to try reading Pavić.


Liviu said...

Excellent find; as mentioned previously, I once looked at the Khazars book but decided not to read it - now I am loving Second Body so I decided to give another try to Mr. Pavic and I ordered the 4 novels available in translation.

The Constantinopole one intrigues me a lot so it will be the next I check out most likely - though I am not big on tarot I know a little about it and have a set of cards from B&N kits - Calvino has a book related too

I will post my thoughts on sffworld as usual.

I have read some Andric and Kis, and of course I love Zivkovic too and have almost everything translated - one reason I got the anthology Leviathan 3 several years ago when it was published was that it had the serialization of Zivkovic's library book

I will check out the other 2 names too.

Lsrry said...

Good deal :D I bought Leviathan 3 in large part for the serialization of The Library.

Liviu said...

I've got the Tarot novel Last Love in Constantinople - came from the library, my copy is still in the mail - and it looks very interesting.

There are 21 chapters - "keys" corresponding to each Tarot card and they are connected short stories about some Serbian soldiers fighting on opposite sides of the Napoleonic wars, but they can be read in pretty much any order - actually the suggested method of reading is to lay-out some tarot patterns indicated at the end of the book with the cards thoughtfully provided there and use the order that comes up.

I will do this soon since I have my own pack of cards as mentioned from one of those B&N kits so i do not have to wait for my copy to cut out the cards from the book.

Lsrry said...

That's one of his books that I've yet to read, but I might have to do that, because it sounds quite cool, to say the least :D

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