The Black Lake (1948): Hella Haasse


Originally published in Haasse’s native Dutch as Oeroeg in 1948, this novel has classic status in the Netherlands but seems to be comparatively unknown among English-speaking readers. Without knowing any of that, I bought it three years ago in a translation by Ina Rilke and have only just got round to reading it, discovering a short but poignant novel that explores the consequences of Dutch colonialism in what is now Indonesia. Haasse herself was born in Batavia (now Jakarta) and so her tale has a ring of authenticity about it, as it follows the friendship of two boys: one the son of a wealthy Dutch plantation owner in Java; the other, the son of the estate’s Indonesian manager.

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