Hella S. Haasse

The Ways of the Imagination

A classic novel displaying the versatility of the grande dame of Dutch letters

Another dimension of Haasse’s talent is on display in The Ways of the Imagination, an impressive product of her creative powers in which her evocative prose shimmers with hidden meanings. A truck driver gives a stranded Dutch family a lift to the south of France and, as they drive through the night, tells them about his adventures on the road. Many of the characters are caught up in uncanny events; others are enigmatic figures, powered by passions they choose not to explain. This casts the reader in the role of detective, requiring us to collect the clues, tie together the loose ends and reconstruct the story of a life.

We never see the big picture – a recurring theme in Haasse’s work. What she shows us are mere snippets of Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth. In this classic novel, Haasse explores the timeless literary theme that we never really know another person; however hard we try, we cannot uncover another’s true motives. All we can do is weave circles around the mystery and follow its trail down the paths of the imagination.

Hella S. Haasse’s novels have been familiar to her Dutch readers for decades, but she has almost never made the transition into English. There’s no obvious explanation, unless it is that her work is not flashy enough and too difficult to make a fuss of. We have been the losers: it is exactly her unflashy quality that is remarkable, the way her stories derive an unostentatious strength from her steady, irresistible immersion in her characters’ lives.

The Guardian


Hella S. Haasse

Hella S. Haasse (1918 - 2011) was born in Batavia, modern-day Jakarta. She moved to the Netherlands after secondary school. In 1945 she debuted with a collection of poems, entitled Stroomversnelling (Momentum). She made her name three years later with the novella given out to mark the Dutch Book…

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De wegen der verbeelding (1983). Fiction, 149 pages.
Words: 30,000

Themes: classic


Dutch Classics



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NL - 1017 XJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
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