As authentically bookish as Borges, but far more surreal than most international fabulism nowadays, Serbian writer Pavic's book is a tour de force. And with a come-on yet: the book is published in ""male"" and ""female"" editions--the difference being 15 lines late in the book that give a different sexual emphasis to a climax of one tale. But since this is a book very much of many tales--bibliographic, religious, mystical, supernatural--this device really is only that. What you will read Pavic for is the framework here--a reconstructed history of a lost tribe, the Khazars, who must decide in the ninth century whether to become Christians, Moslems, or Jews. (Jewish is what they become, only to--what else--promptly disappear.) The book ostensibly is a dictionary (in Christian, Moslem, and Jewish versions no less) of the main figures of this worse-than-obscure people; and the faux-scholarship gives an almost insanely open weave to the book. Pavic can write about anything and anytime with a reckless poetry that's quite beguiling--from the Khazar tradition of ""dream hunters"" (""In that brief instant when the chill most easily slips into the human body, man's thoughts sift free, like selves that have three different thicknesses. . ."") to a sentence-by-sentence surrealism that's so radical it seems unforced (""In Pannonia, on Lake Balaton, where one's hair freezes in the winter and one's eyes become in the wind like a tablespoon and a teaspoon. . .""). Not everyone's cup of tea, but with such imaginative cultural extension as to make Garcia MÃ¡rquez seem like James Michener.