The author of The Dictionary of the Khazars, Milorad Pavic, published two editions: the Male Edition, and the Female Edition of the Dictionary. The two sections critically differ in only a few sentences, in one passage.

(Don't worry, these aren't spoilers. The Dictionary even recommends that you read it in whatever order occurs to you to do so! ;) )

The Female Edition has the following text:

And he gave me a few of the Xeroxed sheets of paper lying on the table in front of him. As he passed them to me, his thumb brushed mine and I trembled from the touch. I had the sensation that our past and our future were in our fingers and that they had touched. And so, when I began to read the proffered pages, I at one moment lost the train of thought in the text and drowned it in my own feelings. In these seconds of absence and self-oblivion, centuries passed with every read but uncomprehended and unabsorbed line, and when, after a few moments, I came to and re-established contact with the text, I knew that the reader who returns from the open seas of his feelings is no longer the same reader who embarked on that sea only a short while ago. I gained and learned more by not reading than by reading those pages, and when I asked Dr. Muawia where he had got them he said something that astonished me even more.

The Male Edition has the following text:

And he gave me a few of the Xeroxed sheets of paper lying on the table in front of him. I could have pulled the trigger then and there. There wouldn't be a better moment. There was only one lone witness present in the garden - and he was a child. But that's not what happened. I reached out and took those exciting sheets of paper, which I enclose in this letter. Taking them instead of firing my gun, I looked at those Saracen fingers with their nails like hazelnuts and I thought of the tree Halevi mentions In his book on the Khazars. I thought how each and every one of us is just such a tree: the taller we grow toward the sky, through the wind and rain toward God, the deeper we must sink our roots through the mud and subterranean waters toward hell. With these thoughts in my mind, I read the pages given me by the green-eyed Saracen. They shattered me, and in disbelief I asked Dr. Muawill where he had got them.

(all but the first sentence and part of the last one are different)

And that's it. The rest of the books are the same.

What's the metatextual significance of these two passages?

  • 2
    I know nothing about this work, but my first thought from reading those passages is that they're playing up to the common stereotype that women are more touchy-feely and men are more violent and philosophical.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 22, 2017 at 22:31
  • 2
    @Randal'Thor That's a reasonable place to start, but that's about as far as I can get myself, honestly. Since the Dictionary is largely a comparative cultural/religious text between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, it leaves me a little unsure as to how the metatext ties into the body of the work.
    – user80
    Jan 22, 2017 at 22:35
  • 2
    @Emrakul - So, a failed publicity stunt then :-)
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2017 at 22:47
  • 3
    The NYTimes review calls it like they sees it; "all too suggestive, given the international promotion this book has been generating, of a publishing gimmick" - partners.nytimes.com/books/98/12/06/specials/pavic-khazars.html
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2017 at 22:50
  • 1
    @Valorum While the publishers might be pushing or using it as a publishing gimmick, the text makes this a very intentional decision on the part of the author. When it comes down to it, I'm less interested in the publisher's promotional techniques than the textual meaning created.
    – user80
    Jan 22, 2017 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


Short of publicity stunts, there's not really anything clear-cut as to the differences. However, it's likely a publicity stunt due to this:

This is the MALE EDITION of the Dictionary. The FEMALE edition is almost identical. But NOT quite. Be warned that ONE paragraph is crucially different. The choice is yours.

This is the little paragraph on my copy of this book. I only have the male edition. But according to google, the female edition is the same with swapped gender words.

This is probably a gimmick, though you can definitely read something into it.

Sorry to just quote something, but this page has the best summary of it I could find. I wrote this answer, looked up what other people said, and then decided to include this quote:

Gender stereotypes are at work here, the aggression expressed in the male edition countered by the more emotionally marked reaction in the female edition. The difference between the two attitudes is all the more remarkable since they emanate from the same person, Dr. Dorothea Schulz. The determining difference is Dr. Schulz’s decision to read the Xeroxed sheets in the male edition, and not to read them in the female. The former course leads to dismay, and the hopelessness of any redemption; the latter to serenity and an expectation of harmony.

TL;DR of this answer:

There are definitely gender stereotypes here, of a more violent male passage vs a gentle female one. However, it's also a different resolution of the narrative. You can think of it as saying "gentleness will lead to a better end", but again it's unclear if this is what the author intended.

It's also highly likely it was just a publicity stunt. Heck, if you even asked this question it sorta worked. Who knows, maybe the author intended people to read stuff into it that he didn't write.

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