Science and technology are the main ingredients of Rondo Veneziano, as in pretty much all Krol’s novels and stories – and so is love. Reason and emotion, man and woman, poetry and technology, order and chaos, form and content – these are complex contradictions that Krol connects, as his writing passes seamlessly back and forth from the cryptic to the poetic, from the contemplative to the funny. With the uniqueness of his themes and approach, Krol is one of the most remarkable Dutch writers of the past forty years. With Rondo Veneziano this reputation is once again confirmed.
The story takes place during a scientific congress in Padua and Venice, the embodiment, as not other, of death and decay. Krol presents the city as a kingdom of ghosts where past and present meet. Joseph Brodsky and E.J. Dijksterhuis, among other dead souls, are present at the congress, and the narrator, Jan Pipper, also seems to be a ghost. He is the only one present with neither a doctorate nor a professorship. He has been living as a recluse on the island of Curaçao, because he stole his degree certificate, and is scared of being found out, even though he has the reputation of having solved the Riemann Hypothesis, which has kept mathematicians busy for some hundred years – and is still not proved in reality.
Venice may be the embodiment of mortality, but it is also a romantic city and Pipper is accompanied by the much younger Vicky, daughter of a couple he had befriended in Curaçao. The past returns as tangible reality even in her presence. In addition, Venice is a pivotal in the emergence of western science and technology, as is clear from the lectures, reflections, dialogues and historical asides. Consequently, Pipper concerns himself with the question as to which revolution can end the supremacy of science and technology – just as the church’s claim to absolute truth was once broken. Krol switches nimbly from scientific theories to amorous intrigue, descriptions of Venice and Padua, his main character’s recollections. Rondo Veneziano is a novel like the singing of a choir, and it refers to the very foundation of our existence. It is superbly written.