At the last Frankfurt Book Fair, the Dutch Foundation for Literature presented a Dutch Classics brochure. One of the many titles in it was Oeroeg by Hella S. Haasse. Even though it was written in 1948, it is still considered one of the highlights of her literary career. This fall, Portobello Books published a new translation by Ina Rilke, The Black Lake, a reference to the black lake in which Oeroeg’s father drowns.
The book has received many positive reviews: “This is a writer more interested in shades of grey than black and white,” The Independent writes. According to Michael Pye in The Scotsman, this novella still resonates today: “It is mesmerizingly lovely and then it is suddenly shocking; you are compelled to react. Over sixty years later, and in quite a different world, it is still a wake-up call.”
In 2010, Portobello published The Tea Lords (Heren van de thee), also translated by Ina Rilke, the first new translation of Haasse’s work in fifteen years. When that book came out, The Guardian noted her long absence in translation: “We have been the ones to lose out: it is precisely her unflashy quality that is remarkable, the way her stories derive a quiet strength from her steady, irresistible immersion in her characters’ lives.”