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Hella S. Haasse
publisher: Vereeniging ter Bevordering van de Belangen des Boekhandels, 1948

translated as:
Forever a Stranger and Other Stories
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1996
translation: Margaret M. Alibasah

refered to by:
Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad

Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

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the ledge - flash version*


Originally published in 1948, this is one of the most enduringly popular novellas to come out of the Dutch colonial experience in the Indonesian archipelago. It was made into a powerful film in 1994 by Hans Hylkema, shortly after Hella Haasse published another major novel about the Dutch colonial presence in the East Indies, the as yet untranslated Gentlemen of the Tea (Heren van de thee, 1992). The key message of this beautiful and moving novella is conveyed in the words spoken by the Indonesian character to his former Dutch friend: ‘Go away — you don’t belong here’. It was a courageous stand for Hella Haasse to take in 1948, when the overwhelming majority of the Dutch population supported the government’s efforts to hold on to its colonies by force.

The novella is constructed as one long flashback. It tells the story of two boys, one the Dutch narrator, the son of a plantation boss, and the other his native friend, Oeroeg, the son of the Sundanese mandoer (head man), who dies one night while trying to save the Dutch boy from drowning in a mountain lake. To compensate for this, the Dutch boy’s father pays for Oeroeg to have a proper school education. Thus, the two grow up together, but their formative experiences in the Dutch East Indies colonial society of the 1930s will inexorably drive them apart. Again and again Oeroeg is confronted with the colour bar and with his second-class position as a native — a different type of school, a different career perspective and definitely not the same future
as his white friend. The Dutchman on the other hand remains largely blind to this and naively interprets developments in psychological rather than social and political terms: loss of childhood and estrangement instead of colour bar and colonial hierarchy.

In the course of the novella, the Dutch narrator’s ignorance of the brutal reality of native life under colonial rule is slowly lifted through a number of increasingly sharp confrontations with Oeroeg. One day Oeroeg turns out to have become an Indonesian nationalist who opts for non-cooperation and refuses to have anything to do with Dutch officialdom, saying ‘I don’t need your help’. In a classic replay of the colonizer’s bafflement at the emergence of nationalist feelings among the colonized, the young Dutchman totally fails to comprehend Oeroeg’s actions and motivation and is taken aback by what he perceives as a hurtful personal attack from his friend. The distance between them increases further when Oeroeg dreams of an escape from colonial society to America, but it is his friend who leaves for Holland to get a proper university education.

After the Second World War, the Dutchman returns to Indonesia during the so-called Police Actions, as the Dutch army tries to regain control of the colonies and crush the nationalists. He begins a search for his old friend, who is now on the other side, fighting for freedom and independence. The final confrontation comes near the mountain lake where Oeroeg’s father drowned. (from:


Forever a Stranger and Other Stories
In this collection of stories, the Dutch writer Hella Haasse deals with themes of alienation and estrangement. Born in the Dutch East Indies, Haasse calls up the images, people, and memories of her childhood.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victor Hugo, 1832
Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre-Dame in Paris is mocked and shunned for his appearance. Esmeralda is the beautiful gypsy dancer who has pity upon him. This old tale mourns the passing of the medieval Paris that the author loved.

Thomas Mann, 1901
This story of a prosperous Hanseatic family and their gradual disintegration is also a portrayal of the transition from the stable bourgeois life of the 19th century to a modern uncertainty.

Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company
Multatuli, 1860
Sending shockwaves through the Dutch nation when it was published in 1860, this damning expose of the terrible conditions in the colonies led to welfare reforms in Java and continues to inspire the fairtrade movement today.

Sir Walter Scott, 1820
Ivanhoe, son of Cedric, of Saxon birth, loves Rowena, who traces her descent to King Alfred, and who returns his love. Cedric, who is devoted to the restoration of the Saxon line to the throne of England sees the chance of effecting this in the marriage of Rowena to Athelstane and banishes Ivanhoe.

[De schaapherder]
Jan Frederik Oltmans, 1837
One of the most famous (Dutch) historical novels from the 19th century.

The Rose of Dekama
Jacob van Lennep, 1836
A historical romance about Willem IV (c. 1318-1345), by 'the Walter Scott of Holland'.

Kristin Lavransdatter
Sigrid Undset, 1920-1922
This trilogy of more than one thousand pages follows its title character through her life in fourteenth-century Scandinavia. It is a novel full of big and dramatic happenings: romantic intrigues, political schemes, and spiritual debates. It is also a novel about one woman's life.

[Het vijfde zegel]
S. Vestdijk, 1937
Vestdijk's historical novel about the painter El Greco (1541-1613).

[Uit de suiker in de tabak]
Paulus Adrianus (P.A.) Daum, 1883-1884
The story of James van Tuyll, a student who is sent to the East Indies to ' mend his ways'.

The Ten Thousand Things
Maria Dermoût, 1955
The story of Felicia, who returns with her baby son from Holland to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, to the house and garden that were her birthplace, over which her powerful grandmother still presides.

The Tea Lords
"Dutch East Indies"
A planter-pioneer in the Dutch East Indies sacrifices his wife and family to his own ambitions.

The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi
Arthur Japin, 1997
In 1837, two young African princes arrive at the court of Willem I in the Netherlands. Treated as curiosities by white people, their friendship suffers and their paths diverge. Years later, as the 20th century dawns, the elderly Kwasi sits down to write his autobiography.

[Hoe duur was de suiker?]
Cynthia McLeod, 1987
Novel about a family of Jewish plantation owners in 18th-century Surinam.

[Tine of De Dalen waar het leven woont]
Nelleke Noordervliet, 1987
Fictional diary of Everdine van Wijnbergen, wife of Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli).

[De afgewende stad]
Hélène Nolthenius, 1970
An archeologist, living in studious isolation, is confronted with the question of whether a person has the right to isolate herself from her fellow man.

The Ten Thousand Things
Maria Dermoût, 1955
The story of Felicia, who returns with her baby son from Holland to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, to the house and garden that were her birthplace, over which her powerful grandmother still presides.

Madelon Hermine (M.H.) Székely Lulofs, 1931
First published in 1931, this novel of scandal among the Dutch rubber-planters in Sumatra shocked European society.

Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys, 1966
This novel describes the life of Antoinette Cosway, the fictional character who becomes the madwoman in the attic in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

World's End
T.C. Boyle, 1987
Haunted by the burden of his family' s traitorous past, woozy with pot, cheap wine and sex, disturbed by a frightening real encounter with some family ghosts, Walter Van Brunt is about to have a collision with history. It will lead Walter to search for his father.

[De stille plantage]
Albert Helman, 1931
A Huguenot and his family emigrate in the 17th century to the West-Indies, but encounter many difficulties in trying to build their new life.

The Grass is Singing
Doris Lessing, 1950
Set in Rhodesia, this is the story of Dick, a failed white farmer and his wife, Mary, dependent and disappointed. Both are trapped by poverty, and in the heat of the brick and tin house, hemmed in by the bush, Mary finds herself seeking solace in the arms of the houseboy.

'The Last House in the World'
Beb Vuyk, 1939
Two classic works that bring to life the harsh realities of colonists of the former Dutch Indies in the early twentieth century.

In a Dark Wood Wandering
Charles d'Orleans (1394-1465), shy nephew of mad French king Charles VI, is the focus of this historical novel, first published in the Netherlands in 1949.
The Scarlet City
Against the turbulent backdrop of the Italian Wars (1494-1559) Haasse traces the lives and struggles of some of Italy's most famous citizens - Michelangelo Buonarroti, Niccolo Machiavelli, Vittoria Colonna - in chapters interspersed with the diary of soldier/adventurer Giovanni Borgia.
Threshold of Fire
A 1964 historical novel newly translated from the Dutch in which the clash of religions and codes of honor comes vividly to the fore in Christianized fifth-century Rome.
[Schaduwbeeld of Het geheim van Appeltern]

[Mevrouw Bentinck of Onverenigbaarheid van karakter]

[De tuinen van Bomarzo]


Dangerous Liasons
Pierre Ambroise Choderlos de Laclos, 1779

[Een gevaarlijke verhouding, of Daal-en-Bergse brieven]

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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
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Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
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