Hella S. Haasse : Biography

Hella S. Haasse

02 feb 1918

Hélène "Hella" Serafia Haasse was born in Batavia in the Dutch East Indies in 1918 and died in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 2011. Her father was a civil servant and author and he mother was a successful concert pianist. She was raised alongside her elder brother, Wim in a variety of different locations before she eventually moved to The Netherlands to study Scandinavian language and literature at the University of Amsterdam.

Haasse was a Dutch author, best known for her novels Oeroeg and The Tea Lords. The majority of her literary work is set in the Dutch East indies and was inspired by her experience living there as a child. Haasse was a well-respected writer in the Netherlands during her lifetime, and in 1988 she was selected to conduct an interview with the Dutch Queen to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Although she publisher her first novel in 1948, it took a long time for Haasse’s work to be translated from the original Dutch. Her debut novel, Oeroeg, was not translated into English until 2013, 65 years after its original publication, despite having been a staple text on the Dutch curriculum for nearly half a century.

Her literary career was consistent from start to finish, with Haasse picking up awards for both the first and the last novel she ever wrote, along with a good handful of prizes along the way. She remains the only author to have won the prestigious annual Dutch Boekenweekgeschenk prize on three separate occasions.

Hella S. Haasse is the first Dutch writer to have an online digital museum dedicated to their life and work. The museum was opened on the day of her 90th birthday, in 2008. An asteroid has also been named in her honour.