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Max Havelaar
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Book Discussions (general) > Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, by Multatuli

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Jan 02, 2019 01:13PM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company

Max Havelaar

Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Pages: 336
Introduction by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke and David McKay

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 own. Why don’t the financial statements add up? Did the previous assistant resident really die a natural death? And why are his superiors obstructing his efforts to learn the truth?

A few years later in Amsterdam, the stolid Dutch coffee broker Batavus Drystubble obtains Havelaar’s papers from the threadbare Shawlman, who wanders the streets in search of work. Drystubble pores over the documents in the hopes of lucrative revelations about the coffee trade. But his spirited young son Frits and romanticsouled German assistant Ernest Stern discover something much more astonishing: a scandal that strikes at the heart of the whole Dutch colonial enterprise...

Based on the author’s true experiences as an administrator in Java, Max Havelaar is a fiery indictment of colonial misrule and one of the masterpieces of Dutch literature. This is the first new English translation of Multatuli’s furious and funny masterpiece in more than fifty years.


message 2: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
I started this book recently and holy cow! It's great! It is so funny from the very first page. I haven't gotten to the politics yet, so I'm curious to see how all of that will develop, but I already feel I can recommend this one.


message 3: by WndyJW (new) - added it

WndyJW | 288 comments I can’t wait! This is our March subscription book, right?


Louise | 491 comments Mod
WndyJW wrote: "I can’t wait! This is our March subscription book, right?"

According to the NYRB website, yes it is.


Janet (janetevans) | 63 comments This looks really interesting!


message 6: by Mirko (new)

Mirko | 77 comments I read the Penguin Classics edition of Max Havelaar some years ago, and it is still one my favourite reads of all time.

I am happy to see that NYRB is publishing it. It's one of the books, I have no qualms about having multiple copies and having read multiple editions. I can't wait for my local bookstore to get the order in. :)


message 7: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
In case folks haven't seen it yet, this book will be the group read for June.

AND!! Translator David McKay will be in attendance and has graciously said he'd join in and answer any questions we might have for him.

Discussion will happen on this thread. Feel free to start sooner than June, but try to keep it preliminary and avoid spoiler talk until the discussion is in full swing.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
I am so excited about having David field our questions. My paperback copy is with a friend of mine in the US, which I will only get on Memorial Day but my library has the ebook so I just put a hold on it so I can get it read on time.


message 9: by WndyJW (new) - added it

WndyJW | 288 comments I read the first chapter today, just to get a feel for it and it’s funnier than I expected. This will be a good book!


message 10: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments NYRB has now added a link to our brief translators' note on their web page for Max Havelaar. Here's a direct link to the note, which is not included in the print edition (long story).

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/072...


message 11: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments P.S. Have a great Easter weekend!


Louise | 491 comments Mod
Thank you for the link David. Happy Easter!


message 13: by WndyJW (new) - added it

WndyJW | 288 comments Thank you, David. I hope you and all our nyrb members have a lovely weekend.


message 14: by Mirko (last edited Apr 20, 2019 09:23PM) (new)

Mirko | 77 comments Thanks for sharing the link, and for joining the discussion David. Have a wonderful holiday weekend. :)


message 15: by WndyJW (last edited May 14, 2019 08:01PM) (new) - added it

WndyJW | 288 comments I got a jump start on this because I have two other books I want to read (Flights and The Old Drift) for GR groups and then I am very eager to read Beyond Babylon from my Two Lines Press subscription.
I am enjoying this more than I thought I would.
I don’t usually read the introduction to these books because they often contain spoilers, but I’m glad I did in this case. It sets up the story and explains how important this was in its time.


message 16: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments This review discusses the book in general and the new edition in particular and compares Multatuli to Mark Twain (and to Kurt Vonnegut, in passing).

http://www.twainweb.net/reviews/MaxHa...


Louise | 491 comments Mod
Thank you for sharing this David. Interesting parallels to Mark Twain that I would not have thought of.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
If anyone wants to complement their reading of this book with the 1976 movie starring Rutger Hauer, the full length movie is on You Tube (with subtitles):

https://youtu.be/teDbp-QsjGI

"This is a 1976 Dutch drama film directed by Fons Rademakers, based on the 1860 novel Max Havelaar by Multatuli. It was the country's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 49th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee."

"MAX HAVELAAR is a long, stunning, handsome epic - a saga of crushed hopes, ironically played out against a setting of tantilizing beauty." - David Ansen, Newsweek


message 19: by WndyJW (last edited May 21, 2019 07:22PM) (new) - added it

WndyJW | 288 comments Thank you for the article, David. I agree that Drystubble is the best part of the book. I read that some consider this the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of Indonesia, but Uncle Tom’s Cabin did not have the humor of this book. It does seem that it compares more to Twain.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
I hope some of you have started reading Max Havelaar in preparation for our June discussion. I was expecting a somewhat dry biography type of novel but I am pleasantly surprised at its convivial writing style.

If I may quote a Multatuli website: "The novel’s truth vividly alternates with its narrators and their different viewpoints. The use of multiple narrators, as in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1860), is one of Multatuli’s many literary innovations. His book is an unsettling mix of voices and narrative forms, including not only dialogues, letters and stories, but also contracts, documents and lists, together with sermons, poetry and all kinds of notes and digressions."

If you aren't sure about this book, I suggest you give it a try. I think you will be glad you did.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
We start discussion tomorrow. Who will be joining us? I finished the book last week and hope to watch to film (the link is in message 18) in the next week. I will be away tomorrow but plan on posting some info and links on Sunday.

Don't forget that one of the translators, David McKay, has graciously agreed to answer our questions. I have a few for him that I will be posting in the coming week. Don't be shy!


message 22: by Seana (new)

Seana | 407 comments I have started reading it but will probably wait till I get a bit farther along before I read this thread closely.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
About the author:

Dutch author Eduard Douwes Dekker (a.k.a. Multatuli) was born in 1820. He spent eighteen years of civil service in the Dutch East Indies, during which time he held jobs as clerk at the General Auditor's Office, Controller in Natal, secretary to the assistant-resident at Krawang, secretary of the residence of Menado (Celebes), assistant-resident of Ambon, and assistant-resident of Lebak (Bantam, Java). During these years, however, he was also a prolific writer. Between the years of 1841 and 1845 he wrote Losse bladen uit het dagboek van een oude man (Loose Pages from an Old Man's Diary). After converting to Roman Catholicism due to his unrequited love for Caroline Versteegh, he began working in 1843 on the play De Eerloze (The Dishonoured), which was later published as De bruid daarboven (The Bride Up There) (1864). He experienced extreme poverty in 1844 after his suspension from his post in the General Auditor's office for a July deficit, and spent this time in Batavia with his native love Si Oepeh Keteh. He married Tine (Everdina Huberta baroness of Wijnbergen) in 1846 and his first child, Edu, was born in 1854. After a conflict in Lebak with resident Brest van Kempen in 1856 over the handling of the natives, he transferred to Ngawi, but resigned after governor-general Duymaer van Twist refused to see him. He was honorably discharged in April of the same year.

Dekker's daughter Nonnie was born in 1857, but at this time he had already left for Europe without his wife or son, where he roamed the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and France. Still disgusted by the way the Dutch were treating the colonized, his writings after this time inspired various emancipatory movements. After the return of his wife and children to Europe in 1859 he published his most famous novel, Max Havelaar, in 1860. This novel, which made him an instant success, was a record of his experiences in the Dutch East Indies. The year 1861 saw the publication of Over vrijen arbeid in Nederlandsch Indië (On Free Labour in the Dutch Indies), Wijs mij de plaats waar ik gezaaid heb (Show Me the Place Where I Sowed) and Minnebrieven (Love Letters). At an 1864 international colonial congress in Amsterdam, he launched a fierce attack against the Dutch government. He also spent much of this year in Germany with his mistress, Mimi Hamminck Schepel. The second volume of Ide�n and De zegen Gods door Waterloo (God's Blessing through Waterloo) were published in 1865. Een en ander naar aanleiding van Bosscha's Pruisen en Nederland (Some reflections in reply to Bosscha's 'Prussia and the Netherlands'), Nog eens: Vrye arbeid in Nederlandsch Indië (Once again: Free Labour in the Dutch Indies), and Duizend-en-eenige hoofdstukken over specialiteiten (Thousand and one chapters about specialties), were published in 1867, 1870, and 1871, respectively. From 1871 to 1877 Dekker worked on the third to seventh volumes of Ideën. During this time he also wrote Millioenenstudiën (Millionaire Studies) and the play Vorstenschool (School for Kings) as Idea 930 in the fourth volume of Ideën. After his wife's death in 1874, he married his mistress in 1875. In 1877 he vowed to give up writing, a promise that he kept to his death a decade later.

http://litgloss.buffalo.edu/multatuli...


Louise | 491 comments Mod
There is a statue of Multatuli in Amsterdam:

https://www.mlk50.nl/multatuli/


Louise | 491 comments Mod
I will start with a question for David. There were two co-translators for this book, David McKay and Ina Rilke. How does that work? Do you each translate a chapter, then finalize it together, or do you collaborate at every step? Take us through the process please.


message 26: by David (last edited Jun 04, 2019 08:10AM) (new)

David McKay | 17 comments Hi Louise and everyone,

I believe it was Edwin Frank at NYRB Classics who took the initiative for a new translation of Max Havelaar. This must have been in 2012. Ina agreed to do the translation and contacted me in early 2013 about translating the rhyming poetry, because I'm one of the few Dutch-English translators who enjoys that kind of thing. (I should also mention David Colmer, who has done wonderful translations of lots of Dutch children's poetry and both rhymed and unrhymed poetry for adults, and who generously commented on my translations of the poems in Max Havelaar.) At that stage Ina had already asked Imogen Cohen, who teaches translation studies at the University of Amsterdam and is a wonderful translator in her own right, to advise her on the project. I was excited about the project and agreed to do the poetry; at that stage, the deadline was early 2014.

Soon afterwards, Ina had to put the project aside for quite a while for personal reasons. She had written a draft of almost half the translation by then (although not exactly the first half). Once she was finally able to come back to the project, she was feeling almost ready to go into retirement, and the thought of finishing the Max Havelaar translation on her own seemed overwhelming.

I had known Ina ever since a summer school for Dutch-English literary translators many years earlier -- around 2001, I think -- where she was one of the instructors and I was one of the students. Since that time, we had remained in occasional contact. Ina had given me valuable comments on a translation of a short story by Louis Couperus, which was published in Two Lines Online, and I had commented on a couple of sections of her translation of Eline Vere. So we already had some reason to think that we could work together and that our approaches to translating a 19th-century novel would be compatible. Imogen and Ina contacted me about the possibility of co-translating the book (and not only the poetry) in late 2014/early 2015. For me, it was an incredible opportunity to explore one of the great works of Dutch literature with one of the greatest Dutch-English translators, so I jumped at the chance.

Joint translation is a time-consuming process if you aim to do it right and produce a consistent style, and of course we wanted to write the best translation we could in this case. So we asked for about two years to complete the book, finishing by the end of 2016. Ina began revising and polishing the chapters she had already worked on and took on one or two extra chapters so that the book would be divided about equally between us. I had already done a lot of work on the poems by that stage and started translating the remaining chapters around mid-2015.

Since I'd already looked at some of Ina's chapters, I had a sense of the author's voice as she heard it and could allow her style to influence mine. We also made some tentative decisions early on about consistency issues like spelling, punctuation, titles, capitalization, treatment of foreign words and so forth. And we had a couple of general conversations about the book and about translation, so that we knew we had the same priority -- namely, making the author's voice sound fresh and alive in English.

I made a conscious decision not to study the previous translations of the book in any detail until I had a fairly polished draft of my own sections. I was concerned that the earlier translators' decisions might influence my own or make it hard to see other approaches. I think Ina, with a long and illustrious translation career behind her, had a more firmly rooted sense of her own approach and her own voice, so she felt more comfortable dipping into the older translations now and then as she wrote her early drafts.

So for a long time, we were mainly working independently, occasionally contacting each other about tricky passages or consistency questions. After doing the first drafts of my sections, I revised them a few times, sometimes looking at the Dutch and focusing on accuracy and completeness, and sometimes setting the Dutch aside and looking at how everything flowed in English. In the later stages of revision, I also went through the earlier translations to see if they shed new light on anything, which they sometimes did.

Ina and I then sent individual chapters to each other as we completed our "final" drafts, and we started going through each other's work and sending each other written comments. We mostly sent Word documents with comments and suggestions back and forth, but we also met face to face once in a while to discuss progress, work on especially challenging translation problems together, and do more thinking about our general stylistic choices. Imogen Cohen joined us for some of those meetings. Ina and I always get along well, but it was still great to have another skilled translator working with us, weighing in on some of our disagreements and uncertainties, and contributing creative ideas of her own. Imogen was also our earliest reader of some chapters of the book, and was able to reassure us that the style seemed consistent -- in fact, we were very pleased to hear that she couldn't tell whose chapters were whose.

At the end of the process we looked at Multatuli's notes and decided how to handle those, and we each went through the entire translation once or twice more. Sometimes you pick up on patterns at that stage that are easy to miss when you focus on one passage or chapter at a time. For example, Drystubble has pet words and phrases that he uses over and over again, and it wasn't until the final rounds that we realized that we had translated some of them in many different ways. In the final version of the translation, for example, Drystubble keeps referring to "malcontents" throughout the book; there was a lot more variety in the earlier drafts (we even had "cranks" and "snivelers"), but that didn't reflect the Dutch original. This kind of consistency makes the book more of a coherent whole, and in this case it also highlights Drystubble's unimaginative, heavy-handed nature.

We submitted the translation to NYRB Classics in early January 2017, and then most of our work was done -- aside from a few extras such as the timeline, glossary, and translators' introduction. After NYRB had been so patient with us, it was then our turn to be patient, until they found the early 2019 slot for publishing the book. We worked with the editors there in late 2018 and early 2019. Ina was already mostly retired by then, so I coordinated the process, but we were both involved in every stage.

Thanks for asking!


message 27: by Aaron (new)

Aaron (aaronjoe) | 2 comments Thanks so much for participating in this discussion, David! I have a question about the modern status of the novel— I first read the book in a Southeast Asian Studies class, and the text was framed in a historical context. How is the book seen in the Netherlands and Indonesia today, respectively? Growing up, I remember my Indonesian family friends talking about it with reverence. But given the up and down reputation of a book like Uncle Tom's Cabin, how has the reputation of this book changed in those two countries?


Louise | 491 comments Mod
WOW David, thank you so much for taking the time for that detailed reply. It seems easier to just write your own book than to translate someone else's!

I am assuming English is your first language. Do you only translate Dutch to English, or do you ever translate English to Dutch?


message 29: by David (last edited Jun 04, 2019 08:10AM) (new)

David McKay | 17 comments Hi, Aaron. Max Havelaar is still required reading for many, maybe most, Dutch high school students, and still an inspiration to many Dutch writers. It was voted the most important work in the Dutch literary canon by literature professors in a survey about ten years ago.

There's a popular modernized version (because 19th-century Dutch is quite different from modern Dutch), and we even have "Max Havelaar met zombies" ("met" means "with")!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

There is a lot of ambivalence about Multatuli himself, who obviously cared about the plight of the Javanese but also supported colonialism (at least in his youth). He simply thought it should be done better, and he was the man to do it! This is a little bit reminiscent of Dickens, who (as George Orwell famously wrote) tended to think that social problems could best be solved by improving people's character, or putting better people in charge, rather than by changing institutions. But I think Multatuli was a little savvier about the problems that arise when institutional arrangements create the wrong incentives. He was also tremendously arrogant and ambitious and always remained disappointed about being recognized mainly for his writing talents rather than as a great political thinker and leader!

Coincidentally, there's a talk about the book and its relevance today at the British Library:

https://www.bl.uk/events/ucl-festival...

I'm no Southeast Asia expert, but when I talked to Indonesians in the book industry at the London Book Fair this year, they told me that the book was still well known in Indonesia. There's a Multatuli Museum in Lebak, where much of the book takes place (in addition to the Multatuli House in Amsterdam). And the book is apparently still used as a lens through which to view the colonial past, neo-colonialism, and even "colonialism" by the Javanese in other parts of the archipelago. If you search for the title on social media, you can see that a lot of the discussion is in Indonesian.

And finally, Max Havelaar remains well known as a the name of a fair trade quality mark in many European countries.


message 30: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments Louise wrote: "WOW David, thank you so much for taking the time for that detailed reply. It seems easier to just write your own book than to translate someone else's!

I am assuming English is your first language..."


Multatuli wrote Max Havelaar in just four or five weeks (although some sections were written earlier as separate stories). If I thought I had a book like that in me, it would certainly be less time-consuming to write that! On the other hand, he was embroiled in copyright battles for years...

Yes, English is my first language, and I translate only from Dutch to English. Even my eight-year-old niece corrects my Dutch sometimes! That's the usual pattern among literary translators, but there are some exceptions, and of course some people grow up fully bilingual.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
David, this book is made up of many parts: different narratives, poetry, letters, notes, etc. Were some of these sections more difficult to translate than others, and if so, which ones? And which ones were easiest?


message 32: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments Chap. 17, the story of Saijah, was daunting because of the deceptive simplicity of the style, and because it's such a beautiful piece of writing in Dutch that it has a kind of legendary status. Secondary students who don't read the entire book in school are often assigned just that chapter, and it was published independently and singled out for praise during Multatuli's lifetime too. In many other sections of the book -- such as the Drystubble sections, Multatuli's rants, and the formal correspondence towards the end of the book -- it's mainly a question of finding the right tone and then sticking to it. The Saijah story is more elusive than that. I feel I can say with some confidence that we did a decent job with Drystubble's voice, but others will have to judge how Saijah turned out.

Poetry is always time-consuming, and flawed writing is often more challenging to translate than successful writing, so the relatively bad poems, such as the long ode to Max Havelaar's mother, were frustrating. But I think Multatuli's very good at light verse, so the little quatrain on p. 154, for instance, was very enjoyable to translate. The anti-colonial poem on pp. 304-305 (not written by Multatuli) is also well worth a read, even if you skip most of the notes.


message 33: by Liz M (new) - added it

Liz M | 22 comments David wrote: "NYRB has now added a link to our brief translators' note on their web page for Max Havelaar. Here's a direct link to the note, which is not included in the print edition (long story)....."

I've only just started reading this, but thank you for the link! It clears up my confusion about the endnotes -- I don't always read all footnotes/endnotes and when I did look one up and found a narrative voice that was distinctly not....editorial....it was a bit of surprise. I was concerned that I had missed part of the story (as one would with Pale Fire or works written by David Foster Wallace), so it is helpful to know the author of the endnotes.


message 34: by Simon (new)

Simon (cornbro) | 5 comments Fascinating to read David's comments - and the rest of this thread. I posted briefly about the novel (as part of a group post) here:
https://wp.me/p3oBGt-CI


message 35: by David (last edited Jun 05, 2019 09:28AM) (new)

David McKay | 17 comments Hi, Liz. I can imagine that it was confusing to dive into the notes without any background information. Glad I could help! Pale Fire is one of my favorites, and I also love Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice, which is probably the original source of my own fascination with entertaining notes and opinionated digressions.

Thanks very much for the review, Simon. By the way, I was fascinated to learn that Edith Wharton wrote a WWI novel. That's on my list now, and it gives me a chance to recommend the Flemish WWI novel War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, which I translated a few years back. I hope your eye is recovering well!


message 36: by Simon (new)

Simon (cornbro) | 5 comments Thanks for the recommendation, David. Will look out for that WWI novel


Louise | 491 comments Mod
A question to the readers (giving David a break). What were your favorite parts of the book? I admit that Drystubble's chapters entertained me the most. I would have been happy with the entire book in Drystubble's voice.

Speaking of narration, what did you think of the book's varied narration? Did it add to your enjoyment of book or distract you?


message 38: by WndyJW (new) - added it

WndyJW | 288 comments I laughed out loud walking my office halls when I read Drystubble complain that Javanese didn't replace all their dirt as they have nothing better to do!


Louise | 491 comments Mod
David, when you do translations by authors who are still alive, I am guessing you must be in contact with them, and getting feedback, etc? How much of a role does the author usually play in translations, and was this an extra challenge with Max Havelaar, not having the author to consult?


message 40: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments My favorite Drystubble line is the one early in the book about some people just wanting to go to sleep and being too tired to unsheathe anything, which strikes me as a very risqué joke for the mid-19th century, even by permissive Dutch standards. I guess Multatuli managed to sneak it in by not drawing too much attention to it.

I often have a fairly close working relationship with living authors, although there's a lot of variation. Some are too busy, or too insecure about their English, or too dazzled by the idea of their work being published abroad to be able to read the translation very critically. And some just send a few comments at the end of the process.

But I've now done two novels by the Flemish author Stefan Hertmans, for example, and we tend to have several rounds of discussion: I send him my questions at one stage, and then at a later stage he reads the draft of the translation and comments, and still later we discuss the editorial comments. When you have a good working relationship, as I do with Stefan, it greatly improves the quality of the final product.

On the other hand, there's a sea of information available about Max Havelaar already: a critical edition with a huge volume of explanatory notes, lots of earlier translations into English and other languages, biographies of the author, an online "Multatuli Encyclopedia," and a large scholarly literature in both English and Dutch. We were able to answer most of our questions by dipping into those resources, and since it was already a co-translation, in a way it was a relief not to have an author in the mix as well. Too many cooks!

In Multatuli's note 3, he comments on some of the translations published during his lifetime.


message 41: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments I have a question for the group, if I may, and if it's all right to go slightly off topic. As avid readers of NYRB Classics, you can probably come up with examples of foreign classics in translation that made a strong impression on you. Which books were those, and what was it you appreciated most about them? Is there something specific you look for when deciding what translated classics to read?


message 42: by Louise (last edited Jun 13, 2019 05:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Louise | 491 comments Mod
That is a great question David. I will need to think about it. Can you repost this under "The Book Bar" thread, or start a new thread under "general" since it isn't directly related to Max Havelaar. You might get more responses there from members who haven't read Max and are not checking this thread. Thanks!


Louise | 491 comments Mod
David, is there a particular book you would love to have the opportunity to translate? And do you ever approach an author to tell them you would love to translate their book, or do you wait until you are approached?


message 44: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments I do approach publishers about interesting books sometimes, and once or twice I've been lucky enough to have publishers ask what I'd be interested in translating.

That's how I ended up translating Adrift in the Middle Kingdom, a 1930s novel by the great Dutch poet J. Slauerhoff. It's based partly on the author's own experiences in China as a ship's doctor, but it's also partly a historical novel about Chinese civil conflict in the 1920s, an adventure story about gun-running in the Chinese interior, a Westerner's attempt to come to terms with the Chinese intellectual and literary tradition, an early existentialist tale, and even an SF novel toward the end. That one's coming out in the UK in August from Handheld Press.

One book I'd love to translate is the Frisian novel Thin Ice. Frisian is a separate language from Dutch, but because most of Friesland is part of the Netherlands, the two languages have grown very close over time. Thin Ice is a wonderful novel about a girl coming of age during the Second World War and becoming involved in the Frisian resistance. It's based on the author's true experiences as a courier for the resistance during the war. After the war, she became one of the best-known Frisian poets and journalists and was awarded medals by the US and Israeli government for her wartime activities. It's a great book for both YA readers and adults, and best of all, all the main characters are strong, independent-minded women who aren't defined by their relationships with men.


Louise | 491 comments Mod
Thank you so much for answering all these questions David. What would you like readers to take away from this book?


message 46: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments It would be great if readers come away inspired by Multatuli's lively mind and the breadth of his interests. It fascinates me that despite his arrogance and self-importance, he's also very open-minded and curious about all aspects of life and eager to engage with the world.

I think some parts of the book, and the story of Saijah in particular, are models of how to write about big issues in a human way, how to help people understand and care about problems that sometimes feel very abstract and distant. You can argue about whether Max Havelaar brought about positive change in the long term, but it certainly got people excited about the issues and led to changes in government policy. Sometimes stories can change people's minds when all the facts in the world don't seem to help.

I'm a little concerned about monopolizing the conversation here, so maybe it's time for me to step back and give the readers a chance to discuss the book. I can check back in toward the end of the month and respond to any other questions that come up.

Thanks again for the warm welcome and great questions! I've enjoyed talking to you about the book.


message 47: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments And maybe there's someone reading this who would like to do a blog post or detailed Goodreads review of my translation of Adrift in the Middle Kingdom, coming out in August (see the more detailed description above).

If so, please let me know, and I or the publisher will send you an Advance Reader Copy.


message 48: by Simon (new)

Simon (cornbro) | 5 comments Hi David. I just read the blurb on the Handheld Press website: sounds intriguing. I'd love to have the opportunity to review it at my blog, if the offer still stands. Simon at Tredynas Days


message 49: by David (new)

David McKay | 17 comments Simon wrote: "Hi David. I just read the blurb on the Handheld Press website: sounds intriguing. I'd love to have the opportunity to review it at my blog, if the offer still stands. Simon at Tredynas Days"

Thanks, Simon, I'll contact you off the forum about this.


message 50: by Aaron (new)

Aaron (aaronjoe) | 2 comments David wrote: "And maybe there's someone reading this who would like to do a blog post or detailed Goodreads review of my translation of Adrift in the Middle Kingdom, coming out in August (see the more detailed d..."

Hi, David— I'm interested in reviewing the translation! I'm a Chinese-American writer, and am very interested in foreign literary perspectives on the republican/nationalist period in China. I also love novels that veer into sci-fi! If you're looking for more reviewers still, I'd be happy to.


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