Hella Haasse

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The Independent Online

Hella Haasse, who died on 29 September in Amsterdam at the age of 93, was an award-winning author best known for chronicling colonial life in the Dutch East Indies.

She was born on 2 February 1918 in the Dutch East Indies, living there until she was 20. Her first novel, Oeroeg, was an instant hit and has been read at school by generations of Dutch children. The 1948 novel tells of the relationship between two boys, one Dutch and the other Indonesian – a controversial topic in post-war Netherlands – whose friendship is put to the test as the colony moves toward independence as the nation of Indonesia. The book drew on her own experiences of growing up in the Dutch colony.

She also wrote autobiographical texts about her life in the East Indies, such as Krassen op een rots (1970). The East Indies continued to play an important part in her novels: Sleuteloog (2000), has the same topic as Oeroeg, a friendship between a Dutch and an Indonesian child. Her works were published in 90 countries and earned her every major Dutch literary prize. She won other honours, including France's l'Ordre de la Légion d'Honneur in 2000.