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Last Love in Constantinople

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Pavi'c has earned international acclaim for his experimental approach to narrative. In his previous novel, The Inner Side of the Wind (LJ 5/1/93), readers could turn chronology on its head by reading the book from the back or the front. The author's newest effort further develops this approach as chronology gives way to the serendipitous nature of fortune. The plot is tied to the meanings of the tarotÄancient playing cards used for fortune telling. Pavi'c uses the 22 symbols of the tarot constellation of the Major Arcana as keys to unfold his story and to ponder the secret of human destiny. Set at the turn of the 19th century, the story revolves around the military and romantic exploits of the Tenecki and Opujic families, whose lives are linked by fate. Each chapter adds to the development of the tale, but the work's open-ended nature makes it an ideal vehicle for plot experimentation. Thus, directions are given for laying out the cards (and chapters) for both reading and divination. And it works: whether read sequentially or according to the order of a deal, the novel is a fascinating, surrealistic dreamscape marked by vibrant, folkloric imagery. Recommended for public and academic libraries with adventuresome readers.ÄSister M. Anna Falbo, CSSF, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo, NY

Acclaimed Serbian novelist PavicÄbest known here for his Dictionary of the KhazarsÄoffers another nonlinear novel that the reader is invited to experience in multiple ways. The book is divided into 21 chapters, or "keys," which are meant to parallel the 21 cards of the Tarot known as "The Major Arcana." Guides to the cards' meaning and the main patterns for laying them out are included in appendixes to the novel. Recalling Cort zar's Hopscotch in structure, the book's conceptual bravado is undermined by its content, which lacks equal complexity. Centering around two rival families, the Opujics and the Tenckis, who are enmeshed in a series of military and sexual adventures, Pavic's fractured narrative seeks to achieve a hall-of-mirrors effect, but instead it's often simply confusing, an overstuffed short novel that contains enough characters and incidents to make up an epic. Taken on their own, Pavic's brief chapters tend to be compelling and assured, the work of a skilled and unconventional storyteller whose oeuvre is clearly as much influenced by classic episodic works such as Don Quixote and The Decameron as by recent writers like Borges and M rquez. But experimentation gets the best of him here. For all its structural intricacy, Pavic's latest fails to come together into a compelling larger narrative and instead allows its impressive parts to detract and distract from the whole. (June)

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