The Black Lake by Hella Haasse (tr. Ina Rilke)

a nutshell: published in 1948, The Black Lake (or Oeroeg) was a staple novel for generations of Dutch schoolchildren – it’s the story of a doomed friendship between the son of a Dutch plantation owner and the son of an Indonesian servant

a line: “Here for the first time we were at a point where we each faced the other in all truthfulness. He levelled his gun”

an image: the scene in which the narrator blurts out his fraught questions around the idea of Oeroeg being “any less” than himself is one that eloquently summarises the absurdity of seeing difference as quantitative

a thought: there were several moments that moved me deeply in this short novel, but particularly the last few pages – I was so wrapped up in the narrative that I overran my lunch break!

a fact: born in 1918 in Batavia (now Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Haasse is often referred to as having been ‘the Grand Old Lady’ of Dutch literature – and has an asteroid named after her!

want to read The Black Lake? visit here

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