Review: Hella S. Haasse’s “The Black Lake”

by writereaderly

hella s. haasse the black lakeI picked it off the library shelf for the foreign-looking author and put it in my bag for the fabulous cover – so simple yet emotive, and that summary holds true for the book itself. Originally published in 1948, this was Dutch author Haasse’s first novel, rooted in her upbringing in then–Dutch Batavia at the beginning of the 20th century. The narrator, who I now realised is unnamed, tells of his upbringing and close friendship with Oeroeg, the son of his father’s plantation majordomo (or mandoer in local Soendanese/Dutch). The two are closely bonded until they are 18, but getting drawn ever further apart as the Dutch hold on the Indies grows weaker, and Oeroeg comes into his own as a Javanese man in line with his country’s development. Beautiful and telling, I would even use a word I think has been worked to death – poignant. Great book, well recommended.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and waiting reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “I waited, but without any sense of fear or tension, in complete calm. It occurred to me that this moment was the inescapable culmination of all that had gone before, from the time Oeroeg and I were born. It had grown in us and ripened, though not of our own will or consciousness. Here for the first time we were at a point where we each faced the other in all truthfulness.” (p.111)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers after the good stuff
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; Moments of Desire edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker