Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781681377247
Pages: 232
Publication Date: March 14, 2023


by Esther Kinsky, translated from the German by Caroline Schmidt

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Il rombo is an Italian term for the subterranean rumble before an earthquake. In May and September 1976, two severe earthquakes ripped through the Friuli region in northeastern Italy, causing extensive damage. About a thousand people died under the rubble, tens of thousands were left without shelter, and many ended up leaving their homes forever.

Rombo is a record of this disaster and its aftermath, as told by seven men and women who were children at the time: Anselmo, Mara, Olga, Gigi, Silvia, Lina, and Toni. They speak of portents that preceded the earthquakes and of the complete disorder that followed, the obliteration of all that was familiar and known by heart. Their memories, like the earth, are subject to rifts and abysses. Esther Kinsky splices these indelible, incomplete recollections with exacting descriptions of the alpine region, forgoing a linear narrative for a deftly layered collage that reaches back and forth in time. The brilliantly original book that emerges is both memorial and purgatorial mount.


It reads cinematically; the cuts are determined and stylistic. . . .The book excels when it manages to balance the grand geology of its subject matter on the tiny gestures of daily life. . . . Rombo is staggering. There is something epic about it.
—Magnus Rena, Review 31

Kinsky expertly animates the natural world around her while removing her human hand. . . . If trauma is the inability to redescribe, Rombo offers a powerful antidote in language and the infinite possibilities of description.
—Matthew Janny, Financial Times

A tragic travelogue to the underworld-turned-world that recasts a newly lost Italian past with a climate-wise chorus straight out of the most harrowing Greek drama.
—Joshua Cohen

In Esther Kinsky’s new novel language becomes the highest form of compassion and solidarity — not only with us human beings, but with the whole world, organic, non-organic, speaking out with many mouths and living voices. A miracle of a book; should be shining when it gets dark.
—Maria Stepanova