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The Black Lake

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  4,768 ratings  ·  322 reviews
Amid the lush abundance of Java's landscape, two boys spend their days exploring the vast lakes and teeming forests. But as time passes the boys come to realize that their shared sense of adventure cannot bridge the gulf between their backgrounds, for one is the son of a Dutch plantation owner, and the other the son of a servant. Inevitably, as they grow up, they grow estr ...more
Paperback, 116 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Portobello Books (first published 1948)
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Average rating 3.38  · 
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 ·  4,768 ratings  ·  322 reviews

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Beautiful book. I read it years ago for my Dutch literature class and now this is my first try on an audio book. I remember the book, small and blue, well read and worn, maybe my sister still owns it. But the audio version is special too. Beautiful, including music, instruments, wilderness sounds, various voices... A short story. Especially the beautiful language and obversations of the surroundings by Hella Haasse are magical. I changed three stars to four stars (it's also different when you do ...more
Ernest Junius
The story is not the strong point of the book: the characters are of nothing special; the plot is mundane at best and the ending is typical classic. However what I able to get from the book is the author's impressive eye for details and insight. The strongest point of the book is also the author's ability to conjure vivid images about the environment, which in this case is Sukabumi, the place where my mother lived in her childhood and also where she grew and where we go whenever there are family ...more
A Few of My Thoughts on The Black Lake

1. In Dutch literature, there is a subgenre called Indies literature. I thought this must mean literature about the Indies or by people from there. I was partly correct. It is literature about the Indies, but it is strictly by Dutch people and written in Dutch. Learning this left a particularly bad taste in my mouth because it's such a colonial holdover. Maybe name this genre something else or actually include the voices of people who lived there and wrote a
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, classics
This was Hella Haasse’s debut and nowadays she is regarded as the Grand Old Lady of Dutch Literature. And rightly so.

Oeroeg – an undisputed classic of Dutch language literature – tells the story of a, perhaps naive, Dutch narrator who looks back on his friendship with a boy called Oeroeg. Both boys were born and raised in the Dutch East Indies. While the narrator is the son of a Dutch chief of a tea plantation, Oeroeg is the son of the local maid of the narrator’s household and his father works
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I confess I'd never even heard of Haasse until recently, and it was a matter of mere chance that I did. I gather she's an icon of Dutch literature to the extent that Oeroeg (as The Black Lake is called in its native tongue; I'm not sure why the title-change for the English-language version) is a set textbook in many Dutch schools. Even so, as I discovered, it's a quite lovely book; I'll certainly be reading more of Haasse's work.

Our narrator spends his childhood, during the years before World Wa
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch, 2020
I hesitated a fair bit for this rating. I would give it a 2.5, but it is not memorable enough to warrant a 3 (sorry!). The book is well written, accessible yet poetic, and it explores one of my favourite tropes (guilty): intense childhood friendships that border on fascination and are ruptured by time, where mutual understanding silence between co-dependent consciences suddenly becomes estranged, stuttering communication between different and grown people who both know each other deeply and do n ...more
Persephone Abbott
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised to find it really comforting to open a book in Dutch and read very good storytelling. By this statement I want to say that I rarely read books in Dutch. I should read more literature in Dutch. After all I've lived in Holland twenty years now and I just discovered Hasse's writing is excellent and there are certainly more Dutch writers I should take the effort to discover. The problem I feel is I get turned off by journalism through the Dutch newspapers that I often read compulsive ...more
A classic on the compulsory reading list of many Dutch and Belgian schools, Oeroeg shares its Dutch-Indian colonial theme with that other classic from 68 years earlier, Max Havelaar. The latter was published briefly after the Dutch government had started to force local farmers to move from rice to coffee production. This novel, on the other hand, appeared in 1948 against the background of an Indonesia that had declared its independence 3 years before while it would take the colonizer another yea ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Yeap I'd never read this voluntarily. 1.6 stars. ...more
Mar 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indonesia
Beautiful short novel on the friendship between a Dutch and an Indonesian boy in the Dutch Indies. Was capable of stirring up nostalgia within me for places in time I have never visited.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My book club assignment was to read a book with a color on the title. Am I glad I chose Le Lac Noir.
What a jewel of a book! Power-packed 122 pages. It's one of my best reads this year. I very highly recommend it.
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Originally published in the midst of a bloody battle for independence that was occurring between the people of Indonesia and their Dutch colonizers in the late 1940s, Hella S. Haasse’s debut novel, which somehow went over sixty years without ever being translated into the English language, immediately stirred up controversy in the Netherlands with those readers who envisioned their country as being a colonial powerhouse at the time. The story follows the unique and unexpected bond that develops ...more
Read the book for the first time in 1978, for one of my secondary school reading lists. Bought a copy several years later and reread the book, as it is always interesting to see how my opinion of a book can change over the years.

The book is more than a story about the relation between a Dutch and Indonesian boy growing up. It also gives an insight into the complicated relation between the Dutch and the Indonesians at the time.
My first book by Hella S. Haasse and I am in love. I can't wait to read her other book The Tea Lords. The Black Lake was nothing short of mesmerizing in its vivid descriptions and attention to detail. It's been a while since I completely felt spellbound by a book, and not so much by the story as much as the writing.

So loved this.
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-novel
The meaning of childhood friendship, colonial inequality and homesickness to a place that no longer exists for you.
Colonialism in Indonesia, according to this book is a friendship gone awry, humanity gone all frail and flawed. And it's not hard to believe Oeroeg's portrayal of that era. ...more
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unbelievable she uses so little words to describe such complex situations, environments and happenings. One of the very best Dutch authors ever.
Trevor Incogneato
this is one of the best books I've ever read. beautiful. ...more
lola :D
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-stars, classics
(read for school) (the writing was beautiful and the story was pretty heartbreaking)
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Black Lake explores a young boy’s journey through childhood during which time he is forced to question his identity as an individual of Dutch heritage born and raised in colonial Indonesia.

Haasse captures the whimsy joy of childhood, that so many of us can recall, in the scenic landscape of tropical Indonesia; yet from the outset there is an undertone of the implications of Dutch colonial rule over the country, often only hinted as, such as a child would so easily disregard that which he do
Paulo Santos
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very beautiful book, about childhood and coming of age, but mostly about colonialism amd how it affects human relationships. How poisonous it was, how it shaped people's minds and created so much unnecessary suffering.

And the writing is beautiful, I leave here just a small sample:

We continued splashing about for some time, out of habit, and likely out of a sense of awkwardness too, but without anything like our old jollity. The difference was now we saw it all – the bathing, the rocks
Andy Weston
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Set in the Dutch East Indies in the 1930s this is the story of two boys growing up on a tea plantation in the highlands. Childhood innocence is the feature of the first half of the novella as the narrator, the Dutch son of the plantation manager, and his best friend, Oeroeg, from a native family, play and attend school together. Here is one of the book’s great strengths, the descriptions of the jungle and the simplicity of their lives. But tragedy strikes, Oeroeg’s father is killed in an acciden ...more
The Idle Woman
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

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 he
Fatma Alaa ✨
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Merel Waeyaert
Interesting, since it is about a boy who was born & raised in Indonesia, but was Dutch (colonial times). His friendship with a native boy is the subject of the book. The inherent, latent racism in the text is somewhat difficult to get used to + it's annoying the main character seems to have no opinion about the political situation. The many local words used in the text sometimes distract. Advised for the homesickness to a country that isn't his. ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can’t believe it took me this long to read this gem! Very interesting book about colonialism in what is now Indonesia, interwoven with a beautiful story about friendship between two kids from different backgrounds. Wish it was longer though!
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an incredible experience. Really emotional story. But what sets it apart is the evocation of childhood memories in the readers mind. It certainly worked for me. It touched me deeply.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was the most boring book i have ever read.
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A Hella Haasse Analysis 1 4 Jun 09, 2016 11:52PM  

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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 Week, Oeroeg (The Black Lake, 1948). As with much of her work, this tale of the friendship between a Du ...more

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“Is Oeroeg minder dan wij' stootte ik uit. 'Is hij anders?'

'Ben je belazerd,' zei Gerard kalm, zonder de pijp uit zijn mond te nemen. 'Wie zegt dat?' Ik bracht, niet zonder moeite, mijn gewaarwoordingen van die middag onder woorden.

'Een panter is anders dan een aap,' zei Gerard, na een pauze, 'maar is een van de twee minder dan de ander? Dan vind je een idiote vraag, en je hebt gelijk. Blijf dat nou net zo idioot vinden, als het mensen betreft. Anders zijn - dat is gewoon. Iedereen is anders dan een ander. Ik ben ook anders dan jij. Maar minder of meer zijn door de kleur van je gezicht of door wat je vader is- dat is nonsens. Oeroeg is immers je vriend? Als hij zo is dat hij je vriend kan zijn- hoe kan hij dan ooit minder zijn dan jij, of een ander?”
“Ben ik voorgoed een vreemde in het land van mijn geboorte, op de grond vanwaar ik niet verplant wil zijn?” 2 likes
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