In Blackberry Heaven, a young woman named Jana, who comes from the Slovenian countryside, finds herself in Amsterdam, where she meets Bepi, an old man from eastern Italy who sells live fish at a flea market. They each carry within them a number of spinning, intertwining stories that create a mixture of situations that are by turns funny, peculiar, unpleasant, fairytale-like, and romantic. These stories flow through village figures, urban adventures, and mystical dialects toward a river outlet that which is at once also a new source. Thus, the story of this “river novel” never ends, since the ending of the novel is at the same time its beginning. Nataša Kramberger’s Blackberry Heaven is enlivened with careening rhythms and onomatopoeia. It provides a full-blooded portrayal of the characters in Jana’s hometown, which serves as a contrast to Amsterdam, that city to which the mysterious paths of fate have led everyone from a Surinamese woman working at a cybercafé to the biracial child whom Jana babysits. All find themselves in a city where throaty Dutch names resound even as the memory of Jana’s native Slovenian dialect remains. Nataša Kramberger is known for her use and mastery of many linguistic registers, proving again and again her remarkable storytelling and linguistic prowess.
Additional sample translation of an excerpt of a novel in German
Original title: Nebesa v robidah
Edited by: Tanja Petrič
Afterword: Matej Bogataj
Afterward translation: Kristina Helena Reardon
Blackberry Heaven is a novel in stories that come to life as raindrops, in medias res, passionately, wildly, sometimes peacefully, lazily, and at other times euphorically. The novel surprises us with a range of narrative styles and poetics, from situation comedy to countryside humour, from urban quarrels to post-war difficulties, along with wonderful love stories.
Nataša Kramberger’s Blackberry Heaven, which is subtitled “a novel in stories,” is a cosmogonic novel. Like any good literature, it creates, maintains and rounds up its narrative universe, in which the fates of the protagonists and heroines intertwine, merge and separate like waves in a river; all these “narrative waves” rush through waterfalls and pools to their end, to an outlet that is at the same time a source, a source of a new narrative. Thus, the novel does not end anywhere, in different forms, at different levels of meaning, it circulates like water. […] The text amazed and overwhelmed me, convincing me that it deserves to be placed alongside works in the best tradition of the Slovenian novel, especially Breda Smolnikar and Nina Kokelj.
Barbara Korun, Afterword for the Slovenian original
Blackberry Heaven is a novel that simply must be read. Several times. It is wide-ranging and exquisitely written. It contains an abundance of what is usually absent from so-called elite literature at major publishers that reaps prizes: readability, humour, a mastery of dialogue, and a general joy for life and literature.
Matej Krajnc, writer and literary critic
With a lightly disguised tendency for the cosmopolitan, which manifests itself in the choice of setting, for the universal in the choice of characters, and for the poetic in the manner in which the story is told, Nataša Kramberger ventures beyond the established paths of the linear narratives that unfold before us as an amiable, workaday and undramatic life cycle, but due to its minute (and to many an eye overlooked) moments, as significant fragments of everyday life, valuable and worthy of being recorded.
Metka Lampret, reviewer
Nataša Kramberger’s Blackberry Heaven opens a new writing world, one that is a distinctive and communicative, primordial, unlimited and purified template of Slovene literature, and that in many ways reminiscent of Olga Tokarczuk’s prose or at least of her novel House of Day, House of Night, not in concreteness but primarily in its symbolic approach and in its incredible warmth and tolerance. […] Kramberger’s novel convinces us that reading can be a pleasure on all levels, from story to language and narrative symbolism, allowing us to giggle at certain situations, while drawing us into reflecting more deeply, mysteriously on the powers of nature, its natural flow and traps. It seems that in this way we are all caught up in the mysterious existence of our non-random encounters, which have their own meaning and their own unpredictable path.
Marko Elsner Grošelj, Mentor Magazine