Saturday, April 12, 2014

"K" is for Khazars

Dictionary of the Khazars

Source: Goodreads


Dictionary of the Khazars: A lexicon novel in 100,000 words is fantasy, historical fiction, a collection of short stories, a puzzle, an enigma, a riddle. It contains references and events listed in alphabetical order in three different books: one Christian, one Muslim, and one Jewish. They all revolve around the religious conversion of an entire people who then vanished from history: The Khazars. Which religion did they finally choose? Well according to the Christians, Christianity; the Muslims, Islam; and the Jewish community, Judaism. The novel also comes in two different version: a female edition and a male edition.


This, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, is my favorite book of all time. And it's structure made me think it would make it a perfect topic to use for the A to Z Challenge. And while it doesn't use all the letters of the alphabet it does follow a similar idea.

I acquired this book almost six years ago in Mexico (I have the Spanish translation) and the other day when I picked it up I wondered if it was still my favorite. I opened the first page, looked at the dedication to the reader who would never read the book, and I smiled and had to continue. I wasn't two pages into the prologue when I remembered exactly why I love this book so much.

I love books that challenge and intereact with the reader and that is exactly what Milorad Pavic, the author of the book, did. He didn't just write a book(originaly in Serbian and then translated to many other languages), he created an experience and an adventure. 

There is no right way to read this book. Every time you read it you will read it differently and different people will take away different things from it. I've gotten sticky notes to help in my re-reading of this book because there is no way I can read it from the first page to the last. You can if you want to, but I tend to jump around.

But it isn't just the structure and rules of the book that I love. The writing style is what wins me over. Pavic is a poet writing a novel. The descriptions that he uses and the imagination involved in the creation of the stories are breath taking. Even the fact that there is a female and male version of the book is so quirky and original that you have to give the guy props for thinking up something that's never been done.

If there was only one book I could recommend to anyone, it would be this one. Because it isn't just one book. You could spend years studying it and analyzing it or take a few days just to read it through. The experience is what you make it, which transforms it into a different book for every person who reads it.

Have you read the Dictionary of the Khazars? What is your favorite book of all time? If you could only recommend one book to anyone, what would it be and why?




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22 comments:

  1. Just added it to my tbr list, sounds fascinating!

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    1. It really is. I hope you enjoy it when you read it.

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  2. Well, you sold me. When I went to Amazon to buy it, I noticed that it explained that the male and female versions are alike except for 17 lines. I'll probably have to buy the other one, too, because it's going to drive me nuts not knowing which lines they are.:-)
    I joined your blog as follower, and I'm enjoying it. If you are so inclined, I hope you join my blog too.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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    1. It really is a great book and yeah it's only a few lines that are different. I think you can find the difference somewhere online but I also might just buy the male version just becasue I love the book so much.
      And thank you for following. I actually just joined your blog as well. I've enjoyed the few posts I've seen so far. =D

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  3. I am very intrigued by this book now - very intrigued. It sounds like something I must read.

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    1. Oooh that's something coming from you. I hope you do read it and post an honest review of what you thought (or at least let me know). I'd like to see how my reputation as a book recommendor turns out in your eyes.

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  4. I've not read this book, but I'm interested. I can't imagine how anyone would query a book like this to an agent or publisher! As for my favorite book of all time... if we're talking novels, I'm not sure. I'll have to think hard about that one. It's possible I haven't read it yet... :)

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    1. I also wonder how he pitched this... well whatever he did I'm glad it worked. He's written other interesting books as well but this one is still my favorite.

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  5. This post has me SO intrigued. I need to do a little search and check out the book further. I love books that make me work!

    Shonell ~ http://gurrlontherise.wordpress.com

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    1. Of course! You should make sure if it's something you want to read. Books that make me work make it feel like a more personal experience. That is why I love it.

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  6. Replies
    1. Thank you for dropping by! And yes it really is.

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  7. Hi Cely - what an amazing little book - and yes you've enticed me too ... very thought provoking post about the book .. I'll definitely have a look .. it sounds amazing.

    I've finally joined - it took three attempts -first time it refused to take, 2nd time I got through to join then it kicked me out .. and now I've joined ..

    The Followers has been or is funny this year .. and not sure why - it's irritating when we need to go back to join the Followers bit ..

    Good luck and enjoy the rest of the A-Z .. Cheers Hilary

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    1. I'm sorry for the trouble Hilary. They really should figure out what is up with that button but in the end I'm glad you could follow. I really appreciate it.

      And good luck to you on the Challenge. We've got a few weeks left. =)

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  8. Oh my god, this book sounds AMAZING. I'm going to go and buy it now. Thank you so much for sharing! It's right up my street!

    My favourite book is about to change because I got bought an epic book for my birthday which I can already tell is going to be unlike anything I've ever read. I'm going to post about it for my S post so won't reveal it for now :)

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    1. Nice! Now I really hope you like the book. I hope you let me know once you've read it. And I'll be looking forward to seeing the post about this new book you've got. I'm intrigued...

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  9. I'll check it out. Sounds funny and mysterious, like my personal hygiene philosophy. The cover looks vaguely Satanic, which is no joke to me, but I rarely judge books by their cover. One book to recommend: duh, the Bible.

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    1. Thank you for dropping by! The cover is a bit weird but it fits with the book. And don't worry, nothing "satanic" about it. =)

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  10. Thank you for suggesting this book. I haven't read it yet... A book I would suggest is "Mornings in Jenin" which humanizes the Palestinian struggle so not often potrayed by the International media. Also the English Patient is another amazing readg if you love rich literature and descriptive imagery.

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    1. Thank you for the recommendations. They both sound like interesting books, I'll have to check them out.

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  11. OH MY GOD! I have never met anyone else who read this book!!! :D I am so happy now.
    I have the Hungarian translation, I found it in a book outlet a couple of years ago. I was surprised it did not become popular in Hungary, since we belonged to the Kazar Kaganate before we moved to the Carpathian Basin. Our chiefs even had jewelry with Hebrew symbols on them, for the official religion of the Kaganate. It is kind of partly our history too.
    This made my day :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Tales of colors
    MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

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    1. That is awesome! I was in a literature reading group thing in Mexico about six years ago and the main "teacher" guys (the rest of the group was four adult moms and 21 year old me) introduced us to this book.

      I knew nothing about the Khazars before then, I'm afraid to say. It's on the list of 1001 books you should read before you die though but not many people know about the book. The writer Milorad Pavic is totally underrated.

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