Esther Kinsky

Translated by Caroline Schmidt

French paperback with flaps, 232 pages
Published 5 October 2022

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In May and September 1976, two earthquakes ripped through north-eastern Italy, causing severe damage to the landscape and its population. About a thousand people died under the rubble, tens of thousands were left without shelter, and many ended up leaving their homes in Friuli forever.
     The displacement of material as a result of the earthquakes was enormous. New terrain was formed that reflects the force of the catastrophe and captures the fundamentals of natural history. But it is far more difficult to find expression for the human trauma, the experience of an abruptly shattered existence.
     In Rombo, Esther Kinsky’s sublime new novel, seven inhabitants of a remote mountain village talk about their lives, which have been deeply impacted by the earthquake that has left marks they are slowly learning to name. From the shared experience of fear and loss, the threads of individual memory soon unravel and become haunting and moving narratives of a deep trauma.

‘In Kinsky’s novel, the land speaks … Kinsky expertly animates the natural world around her while removing her human hand. Kinsky lets nature uphold its own intractable logic.… If trauma is the inability to redescribe, Rombo offers a powerful antidote in language and the infinite possibilities of description; like the trembling Friulian landscape, forever writing itself anew.’
Matthew Janney, Financial Times

‘Esther Kinsky has more eyes than most; in her novel Rombo she evokes the entire life of an Italian village before, during, and after the two devastating earthquakes of 1976, but each plant and animal central to the village is also a character, and the most important character of all is the landscape itself. The book becomes as much about the futures as the past, for our natural disasters are increasingly man-made, and we need more than ever this reminder of universal impermanence and the marks of memory we leave in its wake.’
— Mary Ruefle, author of Madness, Rack, and Honey

‘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, author of The Netanyahus

‘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, author of In Memory of Memory

‘Esther Kinsky has created a literary oeuvre of impressive stylistic brilliance, thematic diversity and stubborn originality…. It is always clear that for her the only landscape worth describing is the one in which she is currently situated. Far from “eco-dreaming”, without sorrow or critique, Kinsky’s novels and poems position humanity in relation to the ruins it has produced and what still remains of nature.’
— 2022 Kleist Prize jury

‘[Kinsky] has a poet’s ear for rhythm and precision, elegantly rendered in Caroline Schmidt’s translation. The author has a great gift for describing landscape; she lingers meticulously over rocks and ridges and the ancient formation of mountains.’
Charlie Lee, Times Literary Supplement

‘While the narrator offers insights about collective trauma and the transformative impact of nature’s whims on one’s sense of home, the book is filled with the voices of the landscape’s inhabitants.’
New Yorker

‘Moving testimonies from fictionalised inhabitants of Friuli are interspersed with detailed observations about the landscape, geology, history and folklore of the area, all set down in precise, mellifluous prose.’
Michael Delgado, i News

‘In Esther Kinsky, German literature has an author whose books are full of poetic intelligence…. A brilliant new novel.’
—  Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Rombo is staggering. There is something epic about it.… It’s about how we make places habitable – homes, memories, the past – and carry on.’
Magnus Rena, Review 31

‘Gracefully translated by Caroline Schmidt, Rombo is ambitious in its aim of presenting the total ecosystem of an area: geology, gossip, flora and folktales rub up against each other in an accumulating series of vignettes. Each voice remains distinct, however, in Kinsky’s delicately insistent prose, which draws its reader into the confidence of the village community.… The notion of tales ‘written into the landscape’ underpins a central preoccupation of Kinsky’s intimate and poised novel: what happens when a landscape loses its legibility?’
Damian Walsh, Literary Review

‘The quality of Esther Kinsky’s writing is so good that you cannot fail to be spellbound by it.’
— The Modern Novel

Rombo, vast yet spectral, is framed around spaces where things used to be. Its sonorous lyricism – and the slow, doom-laden beauty of its translation by Caroline Schmidt – intones something beyond the page…. Something reverberates under Kinsky’s calm carousel of artefacts: in the shifting plates, the permanence and then shocking displacement, the violent reordering of the psyche.’
— Imogen Dewey, Meanjin

Praise for Grove

‘What makes Grove so noteworthy is the keening, perfectly weighted clarity of Esther Kinsky’s prose; Caroline Schmidt’s elegantly considered translation is meticulous but never overstated.’
— Lucy Scholes, Financial Times

‘This is a sublime book, born of profound, empathetic understanding.’ 
— Declan O’Driscoll, Irish Times

Esther Kinsky grew up by the river Rhine and lived in London for twelve years. She is the author of six volumes of poetry, five novels (Summer ResortBanatskoRiverGroveRombo), numerous essays on language, poetry and translation and three children’s books. She has translated many notable English (John Clare, Henry David Thoreau, Iain Sinclair) and Polish (Joanna Bator, Miron Białoszewski, Magdalena Tulli) authors into German. Both River and Grove won numerous literary prizes in Germany. Seeing Further is her fourth book published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Caroline Schmidt was born in Princeton. She translated Esther Kinsky’s Grove, and has translated poetry by Friederike Mayröcker, and art historical essays, museum catalogues and exhibition texts for Albertina in Vienna and Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, among others. She lives in Berlin.