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Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company

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Max Havelaar - a Dutch civil servant in Java - burns with an insatiable desire to end the ill treatment and oppression inflicted on the native peoples by the colonial administration. Max is an inspirational figure, but he is also a flawed idealist whose vow to protect the Javanese from cruelty ends in his own downfall. In Max Havelaar, Multatuli (the pseudonym for Eduard Douwes Dekker) vividly recreated his own experiences in Java and tellingly depicts the hypocrisy of those who gained from the corrupt coffee trade. Sending shockwaves through the Dutch nation when it was published in 1860, this damning exposé of the terrible conditions in the colonies led to welfare reforms in Java and continues to inspire the fairtrade movement today.

Roy Edwards's vibrant translation conveys the satirical and innovative style of Multatuli's autobiographical polemic. In his introduction, R. P. Meijer discusses the author's tempestuous life and career, the controversy the novel aroused and its unusual narrative structure.

352 pages, Paperback

First published May 17, 1860

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About the author


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Eduard Douwes Dekker, better known by his pen name Multatuli (from Latin multa tuli, "I have suffered much"), was a Dutch writer famous for his satirical novel, Max Havelaar (1860) in which he denounced the abuses of colonialism in the colony of the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia). He is considered one of the Netherlands' greatest authors.

Determined to expose the scandals he had witnessed during his years in the Dutch East Indies, Douwes Dekker began to write newspaper articles and pamphlets. Little notice was taken of these early publications until, in 1860, he published his satirical anticolonialist novel Max Havelaar: The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company under the pseudonym Multatuli. Douwes Dekker's pen name is derived from the Latin phrase multa tuli, meaning "I have suffered much" (or more literally: "I have borne much"). It refers both to himself and to the victims of the injustices he saw.

Multatuli made several attempts to write for the stage. One of his plays, Vorstenschool (The School for Princes, published in 1872 in the fourth volume of Ideën), expresses his nonconformist views on politics, society, and religion. Out of fear of offending the Dutch king, it was three years before the play was first staged. The premiere and subsequent tour were a great success, forming one of the highlights of Multatuli's career as a writer.

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