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Blackberry Shoot


French sample avaialable

Umberto Eco meets Dostoyevsky in this spellbinding debut novel, unanimously hailed by critics as “the best Russian novel in recent years”.

British historian Theo Forge finds a letter written by a monk back in the 15th century. The letter tells the story of some artifacts that seemed so threatening to the Vatican that the monk was sent to Malta to hide and guard them. Forge assumes that the artifacts represent six of the alchemic elements and is obsessed with the idea of finding the treasures. The group of six people setting out to Malta is picturesque: Forge himself; his fiancée Nadia, a London lawyer; red-haired archaeologist Fiona; a Macedonian graduate student, Fiona’s lover; French antiquarian Eugene Levas; and an Austrian doctor, York. Each has a secret in the past that sparks the decision to embark on this nearly absurd trip. The adventure of the cryptologists turns into a thriller, as members of the quest begin to die, one by one.

The escalating Maltese drama is witnessed not only by the police, but also by a young man of heavenly beauty and encyclopedic erudition, Moras. He suffers from an unnamed mental illness that is sometimes interpreted as permanent genius. Moras, a Lithuanian language student, is kept in an expensive mental hospital in Barcelona. During the remission of his illness, he is discharged and goes to Malta to be a compassionate pimp, a bellboy, and good company for everyone in the group.

The structure of the novel is complex and multi-voiced: it incorporates fragments of the archeologists’ diaries, personal letters, and emails. Yet the major part of the novel is Moras’ journal, which the reader follows, spellbound; because, in fact, it’s all about Moras in the novel. In addition to being a specific account of the puzzling events, his journal is a poetic revelation, a metaphor, and above all — the central cryptogram to decode.


Book details


Alpina Non-Fiction

Novel, 2006, 2024

396 pp

Rights sold

  • All rights available

Literary awards

  • Shortlisted for the National Bestseller Prize 2006

  • Finalist of Andrei Bely Award 2006

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