Milorad Pavić at the 2007 Belgrade Book Fair
15 October 1929|
Belgrade, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
|Died||30 November 2009 (aged 80)
|Alma mater||University of Belgrade
University of Zagreb
|Genres||Experimental novel, Short story, playwright, poetry|
|Notable works||Dictionary of the Khazars
Landscape Painted with Tea
The Inner Side of the Wind
Milorad Pavić (Serbian Cyrillic: Милорад Павић, pronounced [mîlɔ̝raːd pǎːv̞it͡ɕ]; 15 October 1929 – 30 November 2009) was a Serbian novelist, poet, short story writer, and literary historian. Born in Belgrade in 1929, he published many poems, short stories and novels during his lifetime, the most famous of which was the Dictionary of the Khazars (1984). Upon its release, it was hailed as "the first novel of the 21st century." Pavić's works have been translated into more than thirty languages. He was vastly popular in Europe and in South America, and was deemed "one of the most intriguing writers from the beginning of the 21st century." He won numerous prizes in Serbia and in the former Yugoslavia, and was mentioned several times as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in Belgrade in 2009.
Milorad Pavić was born in Belgrade, Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 15 October 1929 to a distinguished family of intellectuals and writers. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of Belgrade, and later obtained a PhD in literary history at the University of Zagreb.
Pavić entered the literary scene with two collections of poetry titled Palimpsests (Palimpsesti), and Moon Stone (Mesečev kamen), published in 1969 and 1971, respectively. Pavić's poems were soon translated into English, and included in the anthology titled Contemporary Yugoslav Poems. Soon after, Pavić dedicated himself to writing prose and several short story collections were published. Pavić's first and most famous novel, Dictionary of the Khazars (Hazarski rečnik), was published in 1984. It received widespread critical acclaim upon release, and was hailed as "the first novel of the 21st century." Written as a poetic dictionary, the book has been described as "a quasi-historical account of the semi-imaginary tribe of the Khazars."
Pavić's second novel was titled Landscape Painted with Tea, and was published in 1988. Organized as a crossword puzzle, it follows a failed architect from Belgrade as he travels to Greece to trace the fate of his father who disappeared there during World War II. Pavić wrote many more novels, including The Inner Side of the Wind, or A Novel of Hero and Leander and Last Love in Constantinople: A Tarot Novel of Divination. Described as "highly imaginative", Pavić is said to have "[done] everything to disrupt the traditional models of fiction writing such as the development of story and the notions of beginning and end." He was described as being "one of the most intriguing writers from the beginning of the 21st century." As a result, he was mentioned several times as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Apart from writing, Pavić taught philosophy at the University of Novi Sad before joining the University of Belgrade. In 1991, he became a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU). During this time, he translated a number of works of Russian fiction into the Serbian language. In 1993, he published his first and only play, titled Theatre Menu For Ever and a Day.
Pavić died in Belgrade on 30 November 2009, at the age of 80. His death came as the result of a heart attack. He was survived by his wife, Jasmina Mihajlović, and by his son Ivan, and his daughter Jelena. Pavić was buried in the "Alley of the Greats" at the Novo Groblje cemetery complex in Belgrade.
Originally written in Serbian, Pavić's works have been translated into more than thirty languages. Pavić was renowned for his highly imaginative fiction, and his novels diverged from traditional literary notions by means of an open-ended structure and the entwining of the mythic and historical.
Dictionary of the Khazars
Dictionary of the Khazars was Pavić's first novel and international success. Written in 1984, it is a lexicon-format novel which follows the story of the semi-fictional tribe known as the Khazars. In it, the Great Khan of the Khazars has a dream that is nearly impossible to interpret. To shed some light on it, he summons representatives of the world's three great religions: a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim. He asks the three to explain the dream, promising that the entire Khazar tribe will convert to the religion which provides the most convincing explanation. The three scholars subsequently provide three dictionaries: one Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim. This trilogy presents three different versions of the story, and in effect it produces the novel itself.
List of works available in English
- Dictionary of the Khazars (1984) (Knopf, 1988)
- Landscape Painted with Tea (1988) (Knopf, 1990)
- The Inner Side of the Wind, or A Novel of Hero and Leander (1991) (Knopf, 1993)
- Last Love in Constantinople (1994) (Peter Owen Publishers, 1998)
- For Ever and a Day (1997) (Kindle Edition e-book, 2012)
- Damascene (1998) Available online (1998)
- Writing Box (1999) (National Library of Serbia, 2012)
- The Glass Snail (2003) Available online (2003)
- Unique Item (2004) (Published in two volumes, Unique Item and Blue Book, as Kindle Edition e-books, 2010)
- The Tale that Killed Emily Knorr (2005) (Kindle Edition e-book, 2012)
- Second Body (2007) (Kindle Edition e-book, 2010)
- Sollars, Michael David; Jennings, Arbolina Llamas (2008). The Facts on File Companion to the World Novel: 1900 to the Present. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-0836-0.