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Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 1, 1995
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The central part of the novel details conditions in Java, particularly Havelaar's efforts to correct injustices in the face of a corrupt government system. That his efforts will prove futile soon becomes apparent, and there is something almost Greek in the inevitability of Havelaar's declining fortunes. Despite its tragic themes, Max Havelaar is savagely funny, particularly the chapters narrated by Droogstoppel, a character unmatched for his veniality, narrow-mindedness, or singular lack of understanding or imagination. Though Multatuli's masterpiece is nearly 150 years old, it wears its age well, and Roy Edwards's excellent translation offers English-speaking readers a wonderful opportunity to experience one of the Netherlands's great literary classics.
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The writer, however, isn't trying to make an objective unemotional description of the events in the East Indies, but he is arguing - making a treatise - for a different/better treatment of the people in the Indonesia, basing his treatise on facts and emotions (he stresses the parts which are undisputed facts in a very natural way). For this he uses al his (well developed) rhetorical abilities.
To give some examples of his rhetorical abilities and the working of the structure:
- at some point in the book he argues against painters which try to show the multitude of misery caused by a certain event, by painting the quantity involved. He argues that this makes people numb for the suffering shown on the painting. Why the writer tells this is unclear, until later when he starts telling a dramatic story about the injustice and suffering endured by an Indonesian boy. Then it becomes clear that this suffering is endured by many Indonesians, but instead of making you dazzle with numbers he tries (and succeeds) to make you feel compassionate with one individual. Only to make you realise afterwards that there are/were many individuals which are enduring the same suffering!Read more ›
I recently asked 8 Dutch university students if they had read it - the most famous book in Dutch literature. 7 had not. One had started but had thrown it away half finished because it was all so depressingly familiar. (Familiar as a picture of present day attitudes in the Netherlands).
Multatuli in the flesh was Eduard Douwes Dekker, a Dutchman born in 1820 who joined the East Indian Civil Service at age 18, rose steadily in rank during his years of service in Java, and resigned in protest against brutal colonial exploitation in 1856. The character Max Havelaar is indeed Dekker's avatar, but Dekker's career is narrated third hand: by Stern, who edits the manuscripts of Scarfman, who reports on the trials and tribulations of Havelaar. Odd structure? Well, it's even stranger yet, since the literary labors of Stern are commissioned by his coffee merchant host in Amsterdam, Batavus Drystubble, a pompous philistine who interrupts the very book he's commissioned with chapters of his own illiberal blather.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a bit date but interesting. Lots of history on the whole Dutch exploitation of Java and Indonesia. Interesting as a post colonial document.Published on March 10, 2013 by NovelReader
I couldn't find this in English for my Kindle, however it is available for $3.99 from iBooks......
I just downloaded it to my iPad 10/25/11
Great book. And the Kindle edition is now in English. There's a German translation floating around on Amazon, and the Dutch original on-line, but the one I downloaded here is in... Read morePublished on September 24, 2010 by Mr. Gelek
Be forewarned, I purchased the $1 Kindle edition and it was not in English and therefore is not useful to me.Published on August 11, 2010 by Andy Bakker
I ordered an English copy and got a German one. The book was send to me from New Zealand at high transportcost. Read morePublished on February 5, 2010 by J. P. Huges
With all 19th century books, you got to be patient: the rewards start to come here after the first 50 pages. Read morePublished on March 13, 2009 by Claude Lambert
This novel is by far the most fascinating novel I have ever read.
The background stories alone make it worth reading. Read more
Max Havelaar is the best story of the 1000 years and the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the Dutch East Indies, according to the Indonesian novelist Pramodeya Ananta Toer. Read morePublished on April 16, 2006 by R. M. Hope
One can say that this work is a small man's grudge against hsi former employer.
But one cannot really sunstantiate such a point. Read more