The plot of the novel takes place in the 9th century at the time of the brothers Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius from Salonica. The central figure of the novel is Constantine the Philosopher, the creator of a new Glagolitic alphabet composed of characters having both numeric and symbolic value. Constantine found the inspiration for Glagolitic letters in the Mill Game that he had played since his childhood all around… In the same way as Constantine’s application of rosette pattern and its various line drawings in his creation of Glagolitic letters confirms the importance of combinatory skill, so does the novel as a whole, which has been structured taking into consideration numerical values of Glagolitic letters and numbered accordingly, confirm the importance of game as such.
The plot of the novel takes place in Istanbul, Kerson, Moravia, Dalmatia, Venice and Rome. Constantine’s life story is introduced from different perspectives and in different ways by four narrators (Methodius, Empress Theodora, Anastasius the Librarian and the Croatian prince Mutimir).
The first chapter (Ones of the Diary of Methodius) has been written in a diary format in which Constantine’s brother Methodius reveals the way he perceives his younger brother, his love and care for him, childhood memories, Constantine’s talent and dedication to the quest for knowledge and truth as well as his obsession with the hallucination girl Sofia.
In the second chapter (Tens of Theodora, the Empress) the narrator is Theodora. Here we learn about Constantine’s mission, Saracens and Khazars, their customs and about Theodora herself, the Byzantine empress, her family as well as the situation at the court of Magnaura. Besides being torn between her deepest feelings – love, guilt, pain, disappointment – for her late husband Theophilus and children, four daughters and a son,
Theodore discovers the feelings she didn’t know existed – for Constantine the Philosopher. In addition to longing and tenderness she feels for him, in Constantine she also recognizes her tragically deceased firstborn son of the same name.
The third chapter (Hundreds of Anastasius the Librarian) takes place in Rome at the time when the legend about Constantine’s Christian mission in Kherson was being created. For the purpose of writing the Legenda Italica, Anastasius gets to know Constantine’s personality which he communicates to the young John Archdeacon in their everyday conversations. Anastaisus reveals himself in an inseparable connection with his cat Acute.
Thousands of a Gebalim, is the final chapter of the novel which presents the Croatian ruler Mutimir in conversations with his son Tomislav, the prospective Croatian king. In the Glagolitic alphabet, Tomislav, in the same way as Constantine, reveals the game of mill and by spelling the Glagolitic letters enjoys the play and the uniqueness of the letters… In this way, the Glagolitic script, besides everything else, becomes the main character of the novel Jasna Horvat was awarded the prize for the highest scientific and artistic achievements of the Republic of Croatia for 2010 by the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the field of literature exactly for this novel.
“The novel Az by Jasna Horvat, with Glagolitic alphabet in the core of its thematic, structural, conceptual and ludic concept, is characterized by creative play and creation at all discourse levels. An important place in such an approach belongs to numeric symbolism, which is used in multiple ways at different textual levels and in all parts of the novel. By combining numeric, alphabetic and symbolic coding of Glagolitic alphabet with the complex structure of the novel, the fragmentary quality of each part, but also the mosaic quality within chapters, the author is building numeric and symbolic combinations corresponding to the semantic code of the Glagolitic script. Numeric and symbolic permutations include the semantic level of each chapter, but also the particular recurring motifs, into a coded network in which a certain chapter, character or situation has a designated place, defined by the symbolism of Glagolitic numerology. The complex structure of the novel (four parts and four narrators, and the fifth who is outside the story, but the most important one for unveiling the numeric and symbolic potency of the text) can be expressed through a mathematical formula 4+1, where number four may be viewed through traditional symbolism of arrangement in the world, through Christian symbolism of four Gospels, through the concept of a quadrant planning field, which, according to some hypotheses, was used for the construction of Glagolitic characters, as well as through the symbolism of a rosette/mandala based on the geometry of a square and circle, the relationship of quaternity and trinity, the human and divine. By means of the concept of a game called the Mill, which plays an important part in the novel, the numeric structure becomes crucial – through the model of transforming a trigonal game into a tetragonal, through nine intersections and nine “mill” stones corresponding to nine chapters in the first three parts of the novel, with nine ones, tenths and hundreds, and, on the symbolic level, to the number of Glagolitic characters expressing the basic message of the Glagolitic script, and to the century when it originated.” (Andrijana Kos-Lajtman)
Translation: Sanda Katavić-Čaušić
The novel AZ in English is available in pdf format.
Download the novel here: JH 2016 AZ in english