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Max Havelaar

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  6,707 ratings  ·  431 reviews
The Dutch East Indies, January 1856. The new assistant resident, Max Havelaar, arrives in the remote regency of Lebak, preceded by his reputation as a quixotic idealist. Some think him a fool, others a genius, but “one thing is certain: he was an unusual man, and worthy of observation.” As Havelaar crusades against corruption, he makes a few unsettling observations of his ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by NYRB Classics (first published May 17th 1860)
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This book is like an onion. It is based on the collected writings of a certain Max Havelaar, a Dutch assistant-governor of the former colony of Java. His writings, originally in German, are translated by the young student Stern, who resides as a guest in Amsterdam, in the house of the selfish coffe tradesman Droogstoppel. It is this character, Droogstoppel, that supposedly tells the reader the different stories.

I have no idea why Multatuli chose this multi-layered technique. It does however allo
Czarny Pies
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody. This is a great introduction to the economic problems of the third world.
Colonialism has had a bad press since the sixteenth century. The problem in such unanimity of opinion, few ever bother to explain exactly how it creates such misery. It this remarkable work which is not a true a novel is the expose of a failing colonial system. Using the pen name of Mutlatuli, Eduard Douwes Dekker, a former dutch colonial administrator explained in great deal how the Dutch colonial administration worked and why it was failing.

Dekker identified three very fundamental problems:

[This book has been translated into many, many languages, including English.]

In the words of J.J. Oversteegen, found in the Afterword of the Dutch edition I read, Max Havelaar (1860 - the uncensored version appeared in 1875) is "de grootste roman, die ooit in Nederland geschreven is" (the greatest novel ever written in the Netherlands). As the Afterword is dated 1983 and not 1883, such an assertion is bound to get my attention(*) since I have a high opinion of the work of Nescio and Harry Mulisc
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nyrb-classics, dutch
This is an autobiography, masquerading as a novel cum political tract, wrapped in a homage.

See, Edward Douwes Dekker set sail for Batavia in the Dutch East Indies in 1838, at the hopeful age of 18, to begin his career as a colonial administrator. He proved a tireless worker, yet his rise up the ranks kept getting derailed for what the Dutch called disloyal administration. He became maniacal when he observed corruption and injustice, which grew faster under the Culture System than vegetation in t
If you can read just one Dutch novel, please read this one. Although it's from the mid-19th Century, it still is an impressive indictment against colonial injustice. Highlights are the character of Droogstoppel, the speech to the leaders of Lebak, the little story about the Japanese stone-labourer and the longer story on Saïdjah en Adinda. The middle piece is a bit tiresome, with lots of elaborations, but I still love this novel. (3.5 stars)
There is a lot of complexity in the structure used to tell this tale. Based on the collected writings of a Max Havelaar, a Dutch assistant-governor of the former colony of Java. His writings, originally in German, are translated by a young student residing in the house of the Droogstoppel.
Droogstoppel is a wealthy coffee trader, a snob but his insights provide a surprising level of humour.
Havelaar is a frustrated administrator who reveals the corruption of the Dutch in it's management of its col
Helvry Sinaga

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
(Lord Acton, Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887)

Mungkin penyakit yang paling berbahaya tidak akan ditemukan di laboratorium, tetapi dalam semesta kehidupan, dan penyakit itu bernama korupsi. Penyakit tersebut telah lama ada, dan dengan sukses membiakkan dirinya dari generasi ke generasi. Eduard Douwes Dekker yang dikenal dengan nama pena Multatuli, menulis novel ini dengan protagonis Max Havelaar. Max Havelaar ad
Mindy McAdams
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interested in colonial Dutch East Indies
This was the last novel about Indonesia that I read before going there to live for 10 months. It’s not always easy for a 21st century reader to enjoy a 19th century novel, and this one is certainly not going to captivate everyone who undertakes it. I stuck with it even though at times it was annoying. At the end, I was glad to have read it.

I wanted to read it because I have seen many references to this book in my reading about the colonial past of Indonesia. The subtitle, "Or the Coffee Auctions
MJ Nicholls
Senryu Review:

pandemonium abounds
in scathing Dutch rant
This is definitely one of the best novels ever written in Dutch, as well as one of the best books ever written by a colonialist reflecting on the system of colonialism. It is enjoyable to read the original alongside the 50 pages of fiery endnotes, taken from a later edition, in which the author spills unlimited and ferocious hatred for the book's duplicitous critics who belittled the horrors he saw in Java and slandered him. Multatuli was not the modern author who leaves the public to decide for ...more
Wow, i knew the Netherlands has a deeply shameful history when it comes to their colonies in the East Indies.. but to read it in so much detail.. :( I was deeply vexed and wanted to kick something towards the end of the book. I could so empathize with the anger of Max Havelaar. How could such injustice exist for so long?!
Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) used an interesting way to tell the story, which i liked. From what i've learnt about him in this book, he seemed a person i would have loved to
This is what you called a must read for very Dutch student studying Dutch literature.
Eduard Douwes Dekker is telling in this novel his life as an assistent-resident (Dutch official in former Dutch Indië).
I have read this book several times as a student. Dekker's work was one of my specialism. His way of writing was new in the 19th century and the book was received with negative and positive critism.
He accused the Dutch Goverment of abuse in their colony, which was used only to get as many pro
There are books and there are monuments. This book is a monument. If you have never read it, and you even remotely are interested in classics, I suggest you go read it as soon as possible.

The novel, published more than 150 years ago, reads like a contemporary attack at the vices of bureaucracy. While Max Havelaar is a complaint about the awful practices of colonialist administration, the slowness of acting, the corruption, the enrichment of certain groups are still valid. What Multatuli obtains
Sep 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read online:

Scathing indictment of colonialism. This is tempting me to reread.
You may read online here.

Thanks dear Wanda for providing this useful link.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not my cup of tea at all.
Odette Brethouwer
If ou don't read some book in high-school, you never read the. My father owns a lovely old leather edition of this book, one he got from his parents when he decided to study Dutch. I loved that I read a beautiful, old edition like that. I remembered I brought this book with me on summer holiday to a lovely house in a little village in France. I always read a lot during summer holidays, and I've already decided to read this book for my last year of high-school. I figured, why not starting the yea ...more
Jul 05, 2017 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
now that I passed my exam I WILL NEVER FINISH THIS GODDAMN BOOK.
I despised this.
Laura (bbliophile)
Why do all of the books I read for school suck so much?
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bia-bookclub
This is the first real "Victorian era" literature book I've read. It does a golden job of elucidating what a modern day hero looks like. The world we live in is complex, filled with systems that no one person can ever understand, let alone transform or overthrow. Max Havelaar, the titular character is a spirited navigator of a complex world like ours, wherein the desired outcome is seldom easily reached.

Along those lines, the modern world with its high bureaucratic seeming walls, which act as a
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics-read
A difficult one this one.
Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) wrote this novel about an Administrative Officer, Max Havelaar, in the Dutch Indies during the 19th century. Havelaar tries to fight the extortion of the Javanese by their local chiefs, but gets opposed by his own corrupt superiors and forced to resign.
It's basically the life story of Dekker himself.
It's a strong statement against colonization and extortion of the natives and as such should deserve the full five stars. But how can you
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Not a conventionally written novel but an interesting mixed bag of humour, exposé, poetry, letters and extensive notes.
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Multatuli ("I Have Suffered Much" - nom de plume of Edward Dekker) constructed a curious novel to raise awareness of Empirical exploitation in the East Indies. Droogstoppel, a pompous windbag of a coffee merchant, sits as a metaphor for the Dutch people - complacent yet venal and totally ignorant of how this staple luxury product is produced, let alone of a foreign policy that forces native Javanese to produce coffee for their Dutch overlords ahead of staple food crops to keep themselves alive. ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Max Havelaar is a social commentary on colonialism as well as a political statement of the abuse of government and the ineffectiveness of Christianity without charity. The story is set in 1853 or there abouts in Indonesia (Java) at that time and is the story of why change is almost impossible in systems that are as large as governments and even a good person is basically unable to make any good change.

This is a 4 star read for me. I hated the poor condition of my kindle edition and
Paul Lemaistre
Fine as a historical text but the white savior complex was too much for me by the end. Especially reading Douwes Dekker's Epilogue ("At least I stood up! What did you do?") I was fed up by the author's self righteousness. I appreciate his use of various media - poems, letters, various voices from different narrators - and how groundbreaking those were for the era. At the end of the day this is a book about a white guy demanding credit for standing up to a reprehensible colonial system. Points fo ...more
Jacob Boorsma
I got one word to describe this book: OUTDATED.

I mean, the book has some nice elements and other things you would like to see in a book, but in this form, the information just doesn't appeal because the book is so outdated.

Also, Multatuli is far too ambitious for a man of his writing skills, with a far too big ego, and it annoys me.
Quentin Zero
Feb 01, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring, outdated, the writer doesn't even think this is a good book. Please
Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I shall speak of men and women, of creatures who live and move and have their being as we do. To be sure, those who shun emotion and wish to avoid the pain of pity will say that these men and women are yellow or brown--many call them black; and for those people, the difference in colour is reason enough for turning their eyes away from such misery, or, if they deign to look down at it at all, to look down at it without emotion."

Max Havelaar, a bright and altruistic Assistant Resident of Lebak (
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the form of memoires of fictional character Max Havelaar the author shares his personal memoirs of the life of one of the civil servants in the Dutch colony in Indonesia. The book describes the way the colonial economy had functioned these days: colonial company had been buying goods from locals for outrageously cut-rate prices, then shipped and sold to Europe and the USA. For example, when we say “English tea”, obviously we mean Indian tea, which colonial British companies purchased the very ...more
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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 du

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