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Roelof ten Napel

Roelof ten Napel

Roelof ten Napel

(The Netherlands, 1993)
Roelof ten Napel (1993) debuted in 2015 with Constellaties (Constellations), a short-story collection promptly nominated for the J.M.A. Biesheuvel Prize. The year after, the city of Utrecht awarded him a C.C.S. Crone stipend. After publishing a novel, Het leven zelf (Life Itself, 2017), and poems, stories, and essays in various magazines, such as Het Liegend Konijn, Revisor, and Tirade, ten Napel made his poetry debut in 2018 with Het woedeboek (The Book of Anger).

Though that title might suggest an angry, explosive collection, it is actually very clearly structured, ten Napel’s poems consistently specific. The anger is not present on the surface, but deeper in his writing and in the oppressive atmosphere it evokes. As ten Napel writes in the opening poem, “vuur” (fire): “een woede als een oud motorblok / ontleden, met je handen verspreiden over een kleed / op tafel, en opeens alle onderdelen / zien liggen, een woede zien liggen / zonder dat hij nog bevestigd is.”

The poems deal with breaking away from tradition and personal history (“langzaam breekt je / ruggengraat, je geschiedenis / een unheimische knik”), the narrator separating himself from the environment he grew up in, from family and custom. A key element in this process is religion, as breaking with tradition also means breaking with one’s faith (“het gezicht van god / trekt aan me voorbij, ik zie alleen zijn rug / ik zie hem alleen maar verkleinen”). Reading closely, many poems incorporate quotations from the Bible, and at the heart of the collection is a series of poems all entitled “psalm.” In these poems, the narrator seems to grow ever more estranged from the place where he grew up.

The poet shows himself to be vulnerable, perhaps especially in the final section, titled “jongen” (boy), in which he writes about his boyfriend, falling out of love, and breaking up.

© Feline Streekstra (Translated by Florian Duijsens )

Het woedeboek, Hollands Diep, Amsterdam, 2018
(nominated for De Grote Poëzieprijs)
In het vlees, Hollands Diep, Amsterdam, 2020

Constellaties, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2014
Het Leven Zelf, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2017
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Lira fonds
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère