Written and published in Yugoslavia almost a decade before its appearance here, Pavic's novel bears unmistakable familial resemblance to Dictionary of the Khazars (1988): the same chockablock surrealism, urbanity, stray wisdom, and general pointlessness--it's like a piece of fabric you buy in a foreign bazaar, dizzied by its intricacies and colors, only to take it home and not have a clue as to what to do with it. A city of blind alleys, Pavic's book concerns the exploits of Atanas Svilar, a frustrated Belgrade architect in search of his past and his future, whose quest ultimately takes him to the monks on Mount Athos. The monastic strangeness and poetry of Mount Athos fit Pavic's approach like a glove, and the documentary pages here are fascinating. Then, though, the book breaks off, in the form of chapter-long clues (""This novel can indeed be read in the same way that one does a crossword. Across here, down there, a name here, a surname there"") to genealogize Svilar--a.k.a. Atanas Razin--and his female relations, and one woman in particular, the spirit-like Vitacha Milut. A reader begins feeling more than vaguely put-upon by such furious invention. And it is a chokingly rich stew, with meat chunks that half the time are suspiciously ersatz, or at least sophomoric: ""He was pleasant, heavily perfumed, and could merge his otherwise handsome nose with his chin, just as breakfast sometimes merges with lunch."" The European modern novel as a long music video.