By Radna Fabias
Translated by David Colmer
An explosive entry into the world of poetry from Radna Fabias, the most acclaimed debut poet ever in the Dutch language.
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Subversive, visual, and bold, Curaçao-born Dutch Radna Fabias’ explosive debut collection Habitus marks the entry of a genre-altering poet. Habitus is a collection full of thrilling sensory images, lines in turn grim and enchanting which move from the Caribbean island of Curaçao to the immigrant experience of the Netherlands. Fabias’ intrepid masterpiece explores issues of racism, neo-colonialism, poverty, and sexism with a heartbreaking rhythm and endless nuance.
Broken into three parts (“View with coconut,” “Rib,” and “Demonstrable effort made”), Habitus explores the profound struggles of melancholic longing, womanhood, religion, and migration. This ambitious, powerful, and compassionate collection has emerged, cheering on ambiguity, fluidity, and a lyrical ego on a quest to find its home.
Radna Fabias was born on the Caribbean island of Curaçao and moved to the Netherlands to study at the age of seventeen. Her first collection of poetry, Habitus, was published in 2018 to universal acclaim and went on to win an unprecedented five Dutch and Belgian poetry prizes. Habitus has also been translated into French, with Spanish, German, and Italian editions in production
David Colmer is an Australian translator who lives in Amsterdam. He has won many prizes, including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (both with novelist Gerbrand Bakker), and most recently the James Brockway Prize for his translations of Dutch poetry.
Winner of the 2019 Grand Poetry Prize of the Netherlands
Winner of the Aan Zee Poetry Debut Prize
Winner of the C Buddinhh’ Prize
Winner of the Awater Poetry Prize
Winner of the Herman de Coninck Prize
“Moving from the Caribbean island of Curaçao to the Netherlands, this debut collection explores neocolonialism, poverty, religion and womanhood.” —“Globetrotting,” New York Times
“Radna Fabias’s Habitus, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, astonishes with a measured unruliness. The reader is energetically flung through space by the irregular stanza breaks, enjambment, and narrative trajectories that feel fresh and unpredictable…Everything lonely and broken is raised by Fabias not into some utopian vision but into humanness. Readers will be humbled by the revelations of such a surreal and turbulent intelligence.” —Megan Fernandes, Harriet Books (Poetry Foundation)
“Radna Fabias’s debut collection Habitus advances geographically, temporally, and thematically—almost narratively—yet at the same time feels resonantly still, as though each line echoes the entire collection. (I think of the way a city is, over decades of development, the same city.) These poems try to grasp the speaker’s whole world, presenting the reader with multi-page torrents of images…[Fabias] grapevines between moments of beauty/intimacy and biting, ironic assessments of the speaker’s surroundings.” —Action Books
“Radna Fabias practices her craft in the spirit of a stranger and strangeness, liberty and lyricism, truth and transience.” —Matt Sutherland, Foreword Reviews
“'the juiciest lie is splendor,' one poem in Radna Fabias’s incantatory Habitus begins, and reading the book I couldn’t get those words out of my head. Another poem tells us of 'the wall that wasn’t there' that 'didn’t fall,' saying 'there were no explosives it wasn’t a war nothing blew up.' There is something extraordinary happening in this book, something recursive and apophatic and totally, somehow, unprecedented. 'i peel the prints from my fingers,' she writes. It’s an unforgettable collection, among the best debuts I’ve read in ages." —Kaveh Akbar
"Radna Fabias’s Habitus, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, astonishes with a measured unruliness. The reader is energetically flung through space by the irregular stanza breaks, enjambment, and narrative trajectories that feel fresh and unpredictable. Yet even with the zigzagging through time and space, Fabias’s authoritative voice steers us through critiques of the nation-state’s ongoing violence, showing us how such violence disguises itself as white generosity." —Megan Fernandes, Poetry Foundation
“I was stunned and thrilled by these poems. They have a confident, clear, strange, wild energy, along with the rage and wisdom and humor of a soul who understands the terrors and beauties of this world. They are the electric record of an exceptional imagination. I love these poems and can’t wait to see what’s next.” —Matthew Zapruder, Why Poetry and Father’s Day
"If lucky, readers get drawn into a language; at best, they get pulled into a new world. The 35-year-old poet Radna Fabias provides an exceptional ‘at best’ case. Fabias does what readers hope a poet can do: she does not just throw language and thoughts at you; she draws you into her world. The opening poem of her collection Habitus starts with an appropriate image: shiny wheel rims, flawlessly polished and too big and expensive for the cars to which they are attached. It’s fitting, because what follows is speed: 115 mesmerizing, generous, sensory, playful, daring pages. She introduces the reader to the Dutch Antilles, to perforce powerful women, and to the peril that always lurks around the corner. All of this haunts Fabias, such that she must write poetry about it: she speaks of “the inability to amputate my cultural background from my identity.” And it haunts the reader. […] The Jury reached a consensus quite quickly and agreed: What a gift, this Habitus, and what a winner for the Aan Zee Poetry Debut Prize!" —Jury Report, Aan Zee Poetry Debut Prize
“What transforms this poetry into great poetry is its momentum and rhythm, the wealth of its images and its nuanced vision on human existence." —Piet Gerbrandy, Versopolis Poetry