Hella Haasse - The Eye of the Key
Hella Haasse’s The Eye of the Key has been hailed by Dutch literary critics as one of the best books she has ever written. It is the story of her return to her native soil, the Dutch East Indies. Herma Warner, from a Dutch family, and Dee Meijers, of Indonesian-European origin, were friends during the Second World War. A journalist asks Herma about Mila Wychinska, the name Dee Meijers took at the time of the Indonesian war of independence. It soon becomes clear that Herma has a blind spot for many of the issues of the past. Was there actually a friendship between the two girls? What really happened? A quest for the past and for knowing the other begins.
‘Somewhere in my memory all the pieces can be found that, put together, will make a conclusive image of the truth. I did not recognize them, or I did not want to see them, when they appeared in my actual life.’ The observation of her own drives and of human limitations permeates all of Haasse’s magnificent work, in which she explores the implications and boundaries of the things we take to be true.
Hella S. Haasse (1918) was born in Batavia, modern-day Jakarta. She moved to the Netherlands after secondary school and made her name three years later with Oeroeg (1948). This tale of friendship between a Dutch and an Indonesian boy gained the status of a classic in the Netherlands. Titles such as In a Dark Wood Wandering (1949), The Insiders (1957) and Mrs Bentinck or Irreconcilable in Character (1978) have been greatly enjoyed by several generations. In 1992 she published another novel about her childhood in the Dutch East Indies, the highly acclaimed The Tea Merchants.
- ‘A tale that has everything: drama, suspense, intrigue, infidelity, broken friendship and any number of clashes between Indonesia and Holland, between brown and white, between second generation Dutch Indonesians and mixed families.’ – NRC Handelsblad
- ‘A novel that approaches perfection: touching, gripping, biting, informative and exciting.’ – Algemeen Dagblad