RIP Milorad Pavic – Serbian experimental writer, tried to create non-linear writing closer to “the blossoming of the thoughts and dreams of man”

“I entered into literature on my own, I live in it on my own and I shall depart from it on my own when the time comes”

Academician and author Milorad Pavić, professor of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Belgrade University, passed away yesterday of complications following a heart attack at the age of 80. Pavić was one of the most translated Serbian authors, primarily thanks to his “Dictionary of the Khazars”, which gained popularity throughout the world.

The Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences has announced that the funeral will be held on Thursday, December 3rd, at 12 noon at the Novo Groblje cemetery in Belgrade.

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Milorad Pavić (1929-2009), author of cult novels “Dictionary of the Khazars”, “Landscape Painted with Tea”, “Inner Side of the Wind”, “Writing Box”, “Star Cape”, “Unique Item”, “The Tale that Killed Emily Knorr”, “Fake Mole”, collection of stories “Iron Curtain”, “The Horses of Saint Mark”, “Borzoi”, “New Tales from Belgrade”, “Souls are Bathing for the Last Time”, and a series of other books – his literary creation included lexicon-novels, crosswords, tarot cards, the discovery of antique writing boxes, he interpreted astrological signes, passed from life to death, from wake to sleep, from the real to the unreal.

The nether world was what interested him the most. The nether world, he said, is a part of our life, except we forgot that long ago. Onlz artists, women and the Church are, perhaps, aware of this.

He wrote poems, stories, novels, essays, studies in the history of literature, plays, translated Pushkin and Lord Byron. He became a regular member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. He was member of the European Association for Culture and the Serbian PEN Center.

“Dictionary of the Khazars” was the first book that could be read on a computer, in the order it was presented, but in any other order as well. The readers could choose a term and the path by which to reach the end of the novel. Pavić realized in time that the end of literature as we had known it for a long time had come. Images, sounds, signs, compete successfully with the linearity of language, which makes it akin to a slow train. So he tried to create non-linear writing in his books, a writing closer to “the blossoming of the thoughts and dreams of man” and less dependent on the chronological stringing of words into sentences.

Thus the striving to, relying on the initiative of the reader, create new forms of reading, and writing as well. Thus his striving to create a novel-dictionary, a novel-crossword puzzle, a novel-clepsydra, a fortune-telling novel, or a novel for those unfamiliar with astrology, an interactive play in the form of a theater menu, an interactive story in which the readers choose their own path. In such striving, he explained, he was assisted by the readers. Primarily by female readers, since they have a different way of perceiving his books, since they are unburdened by the epic past.

In the 20th century he became the author of the 21st century: “Some critics, such as Lance Olsen, think so. Others, such as Alexander Genis, think I have tried to go as far as possible into the past, towards ancient literary lore. In any case, I entered into literature on my own, I live in it on my own and I shall depart from it on my own when the time comes. As for the future, I do now know what will become of the book and of literature. Perhaps it will return to its epic, oral, pre-Guttenberg form, in a manner that we can hardly imagine. In any case, it can already be sensed today that the book and its global reputation will not be the same in the 21stcentury as in the past one, although only a few years separate us from this past.”

He was the first among Serbian authors to have his own website, books without covers, which are read on a computer. That is why he said that the book must change and adapt to the future, which is merciless as all futures have been. Reading is doubtlessly becoming just as important as writing. He was the first to write a novel-sea. But the reader need not know how to swim to be able to read it. The novel “Unique Item” is a novel with a hundred different endings. He liked to cooperate with his readers, for there are, he used to say, more gifted readers than there are gifted writers.

His heroes were also perfumes, or identifying coupons of the protagonists, but also weapons of death and crime. It is well known who has the sharpest nose – the Foul Fiend. He directs and plans his murders by smell. In his novels dreams are sold and purchased. The ones as yet undreamed, telling of your future, are the most expensive. Mankind is, after all, more gifted in sleep than in waking hours. He claimed that the borders between genres were becoming extinct, that the contemporary novel, read on a computer, should not be more than fifty pages long.

In the novel “The Tale that Killed Emily Knorr” storytelling (the story) kills the listener (the reader). Thus literature, with Pavić, becomes dangerous to the reader.

“In this book the author is accused of being able to kill with a story. Off course this is not possible, but when the world wants to make somebody look bad (which is something that, here in Serbia, we have witnessed directly), then all means are used. In my novel the story is, after all, able to kill. It can kill the one that created it, that is to say – its writer.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

One thought on “RIP Milorad Pavic – Serbian experimental writer, tried to create non-linear writing closer to “the blossoming of the thoughts and dreams of man”

  1. Pingback: Bites: Henry Miller in LA, Bolaño was a Reader, Frost Sent Christmas Cards, Art Basel is on, Idiots, and More « Vol. 1 Brooklyn

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