Milorad Pavic

Although he passed away last month, the New York Times just ran their obituary for Serbian author Milorad Pavic on Wednesday.

Pavic was an interesting writer, probably most well known for Dictionary of the Khazars, a “lexicon novel” that was actually issued in both male and female editions. (From the front of the book: “This book contains the male edition of the DICTIONARY. The female edition is almost identical. But NOT quite. The choice is yours.)

From the Times obit:

An academic whose field, perhaps unsurprisingly, was philosophy, Mr. Pavic taught for many years at the University of Belgrade. Dreamlike, playful and formally unorthodox, his novels were like hardbound hypertext in their insistence on offering readers alternate, nonlinear ways of navigating a story. His approach made him a lineal descendant of nonlinear novelists like Cervantes, Laurence Sterne and Jorge Luis Borges.

Mr. Pavic’s narratives do away with the forced-march, page-after-page strategy to which most readers are accustomed. They are profuse with self-reference, unreliable narration, authorial asides and “Rashomon”-like shifts in point of view. Stories nest within stories like the pieces of a Russian doll. [. . .]

Mr. Pavic’s next novel, “Landscape Painted With Tea” (Knopf, 1990; translated by Ms. Pribicevic-Zoric), is partly organized as a crossword puzzle, with alternating sections titled “Across” and “Down.” Readers may approach the book chronologically by reading only the “Across” sections, or less chronologically and with more digressions by reading the “Down” sections. Either strategy gradually reveals the story of a soul-searching architect who roams a labyrinth of meditation and memory.

As he wrote in the novel, Mr. Pavic built his fiction the way he did as a spur to “the reader who opts for the old way of reading, for the one-way street, the reader who is determined to slide toward death by the shortest route, without putting up a fight — in other words, to read across rather than down.”

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