In a Dark Wood Wandering

Post Taken from my other blog The Mysteries of Jehanne d’Arc

The novel In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse is a tour de force and recommended to any one interested in 15th century France generally and Charles d’Orléans specifically.

In a Dark Wood Wandering
In a Dark Wood Wandering

‘Set in France and England during the Middle Ages…It opens in Paris in 1394. Valentine, Duchess of Orléans, has just given birth to a son, Charles…As the course of Charles’ dramatic life unfolds we absorb the atmosphere and excitement of a whole society and meet an extraordinary range of characters, from the mad King Charles V and his icy Bavarian Queen to the bastard Dunois, a born soldier and the right arm of Joan of Arc…’

There is much more to this novel though.

Hella Haase first started researching during the late 1930’s as her homeland, Holland, became embroiled in the Second World War.

Het woud der verwachting – literally The Forest of Long Awaiting – was first published in 1947 to great success in Holland.

Then, in the 1953, a postal clerk and part-time translator called Lewis C Kaplan, found a publication in his office in Chicago with a review of Haase’s novel and immediately decided to translate the book into English.

He contacted the author and gained her permission. It took 5 years to complete the first draft, none of which was to Kaplan’s satisfaction. Then he suddenly fell ill and died.

Kaplan’s widow packed and stored the unnamed manuscript that her husband had spent so many years translating.

Meanwhile, Hella Haase, wondering occasionally about the English translation of her work, hesitated to contact Kaplan and ask how far he had progressed.

The manuscript lay hidden for twenty years.

Then, in the 1970’s, fire broke out in the Kaplan apartment in Chicago and during the clear up, Het woud der verwachting, sodden but not burned, was found.

Neither Mrs Kaplan nor her son could remember the name of the original author but both were intrigued and spent many months investigating. Kalman Kaplan even set about finishing his father’s translation from Dutch to English and eventually tied the book to Hella Haasse and gained her permission to market it in 1982.

In 1989 , after 40 years of misadventure, Het woud der verwachting was published under the new title In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages.

A fitting history to a fascinating book.