Berlin Atomized

Original title: Atomizado Berlín

Author: Kornberg, Julia

Publication Date:

December 2024



Original language and publisher

Spanish | Astra House

Territories Handled

World excl. North America


Literary Fiction

Berlin Atomized

Original title: Atomizado Berlín

Author: Kornberg, Julia


Catherine Lacey’s Biography of X meets Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus in this kinetic, globetrotting novel following three siblings—Jewish and downwardly-mobile—from 2001 to 2034, as they come of age against the major crises of the 21st century.

Berlin Atomized begins in Buenos Aires of the early 2000s with the self-baptisms of Nina Goldstein. She bathes too frequently, washing with fervor and repeating: I am not asleep. She grows up amid the partying and undeserved siestas, the paper maché revolutions of youth, while her eldest brother Jeremías is drawn into the city’s powder keg music scene, and the middle sibling, Mateo, learns of his terminal illness and prepares to join the Israeli Defense Force. Though their country faces the worst economic crisis in its history, the Goldsteins are being reared in a newly developed gated community that displaces working class families from their suburban town. Each sibling rehearses their escape from the capitalist Eden of their birth, unaware that the gated community will soon be underwater, the family scattered all over the earth.

The second half of the novel takes place between 2018-2035, invoking and imagining possible futures for this existence in migration. Jeremías lives in Paris until an unspoken war destroys the city in a terrorist attack, and Nina, after tracing their brother Mateo’s last steps to his death in Tel Aviv, ends up in Berlin, where the European Union is found in the shambles of its own history. From Punta del Este to Paris, Berlin to Jerusalem, Brussels to Tokyo, the novel progresses into a dire near future of constant flight and fire as the siblings search for one another.

Defiant and dexterous, percussive and percolating with violent light, Berlin Atomized is Julia Kornberg’s Napalm-ic debut—a tale about the end of the world, as told by the clear-eyed youth to which that world had been promised.