Hélène Serafia "Hella" Haasse was born in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, the daughter of a government administrator and a pianist. She began writing as a youngster, and had a special interest in medieval and ancient history and legends and Dutch literature, especially poetry. In 1938, she enrolled in the University of Amsterdam to study Scandinavian language and literature. She joined a student theater group and in 1940, took the entrance exam at the Theatre School in Amsterdam, from which she graduated in 1943. The following year, she married Jan van Lelyveld, whom she had met through the theater; they were both editors of the satirical magazine Propria Cures. Her first book of poetry, Water, was published in 1945. Her debut novel Oeroeg (The Black Lake, 1948) was highly acclaimed and became a classic, read by generations of Dutch schoolchildren. She wrote 20 novels, a collection of short stories, five autobiographical works and several collections of essays. She also wrote numerous plays and song lyrics. Her magnum opus "Heren van de Thee" (The Tea Lords, 1992), a historical novel set in the Dutch East Indies of the 19th and 20th centuries, was an international bestseller. She's probably best known in the USA for Het woud der verwachting (In a Dark Wood Wandering, 1949). Hella Haasse's writing won her numerous awards, including the Prijs de Nederlandse Letteren in 2004 for her entire body of work.