Milorad Pavic and Hyperfiction

By Mihajlovic, Jasmina | The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Milorad Pavic and Hyperfiction

Mihajlovic, Jasmina, The Review of Contemporary Fiction

Robert Coover, in his seminal essay "The End of Books" and in his larger article "Hyperfiction: Novels for the Computer,"(1) speaks about a phenomenon that appeared in America during the postmodern period and then spread to Europe and Japan. It is the new manner of fiction after the age of the printed book. It is not only a rejection of one technology, in this case that of printing, but also a radical change in the way literary works are created, published, read, and critiqued. Today a literary text need not be exclusively in the form of a printed book. It can be found on a diskette or on a compact disc (CD-ROM), and it can use all the possibilities of the computer medium for altering its form, creating new narratives, and changing its reception.

As the concept of the literary text changes to include the electronic text, a manner of reading and writing on a computer is developing which makes nonlinear and nonchronological narration possible, just as it was in the original manner of storytelling. In traditional oral literature the singers organize and link story fragments into a permanently movable whole that has neither a beginning nor an ending in the classical sense, and the text itself is subject to perpetual changes. Now at the end of the twentieth century, the life of the fictional text goes on in the simulated endlessness characteristic of the computer, in the form of an electronic text. This so-called "hypertext"(2) creates a network of multidirectional links among the various pieces of a text. The possibility of a literary work existing in many versions, as well the new layers of meaning within those new wholes created through the reader's digital (re)organization of the textual fragments, enables the reader, independently of the author, also to become a creator of the text. I go as far as to believe that many postmodern theoretical considerations have achieved practical realization now for the first time with the appearance of hypertext and its use in hyperfiction.

Of course, it is necessary to stress the fact that there now exist two kinds of literary works that can benefit from this technology: the first are those fiction works written directly for the computer, which cannot be transferred from it into print; the second are those printed works that already possess the structural features of hypertext. Only in the labyrinth of hyperspace can such works acquire a more adequate means for the reader to interpret thoroughly all meanings than would be possible in print. As for all the remaining works that have classically linear or chronological features, the transfer of the text from print to computer merely results in a rectilinear reading of the text from the screen.

Milorad Pavia's prose presents a good example of the second type of literary work. The so-called electronic writers consider him one of the predecessors of hyperfiction. Robert Coover says in this respect: "Of course, through print's long history, there have been countless strategies to counter the line's power, from marginalia and footnotes to the creative innovations of novelists like Lawrence Sterne, James Joyce, Raymond Queneau, Julio Cortazar, Italo Calvino and Milorad Pavic, not to exclude the form's father, Cervantes himself.(3)

The works of Milorad Pavic were understood in relation to the world of the computer even before the first emergence of hypertext literature, which took place around 1990 with the appearance of Afternoon, by Michael Joyce. In early responses to Dictionary of the Khazars (1984), even Pavic himself compared reading it with the principles of reading the computer language known as basic. These types of comparisons were heard rarely at first, and then more and more often. Immediately after the appearance of Knopf's edition of Dictionary of the Khazars in 1988, Michael Joyce tried to get in touch with Pavic. Patricia Serex called Dictionary of the Khazars, "A kind of the Iliad, something like a computerized Odyssey, an open, integral book. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Milorad Pavic and Hyperfiction


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.