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Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company
1001 book reviews > Max Havelaar - Multatuli

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Kristel (kristelh) | 3874 comments Mod
Read 2014
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 having to constantly correct the typos and other errors in my head to make any sense out of some of the sentences but I fell for this social commentary of the abuse of people by colonialism but also by their own people. The book was a little difficult. I believe it is what is called a frame story. A story within a story. It seems like we had the story that was being told by Mr Drystubble (what a social commentary of whited sepulcher), Stern's story taken from Max Havelaar's (shawlman's notes) and then the story written by Multatuli as the author of the whole social commentary. Loved the love story, made me want to cry. Cry for the water buffalo and cry for the poor boy. That alone made this a 4 star story for me. I will never look at a water buffalo in the same way again.

Gail (gailifer) | 1232 comments Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company was written by Eduard Dekker but published under the name Multatuli ("I have suffered greatly") and is a satirical exposé of the corrupt conditions that the Javanese lived under Dutch political policies. In one of the most lush and fertile lands in that part of the world, the Javanese were often starving because of a system of taxation and forced product cultivation that caused the peasants to grow crops for export rather than rice to eat.
The story is rather like a Dutch version of Dickens with a poor but honest regional administrator, who is attempting to really support the people, being drummed out for not publishing the optimistic reports that the government wanted to see.
The style of the book is almost modern in that there are multiple framing devices. There is the narrator, Drystubble, who is a coffee trader in Amsterdam who comes across a manuscript by a Mr. Shawlman and who then pays an assistant Mr. Stern to rewrite. At any given time you have the narration of Drystubble, which is satirically funny, Mr. Shawlman's voice, Mr. Stern's voice, our hero Max Havelaar's voice which is the voice of the regional administrator in Java, and the author also chimes in with his grievances and political opinions. Further, there are many songs, folk tales and poetry added to the mix.
As Kristel mentions above, the story of the water buffalo alone would have moved popular opinion of colonialism at the time and now.
As a complete work it suffers from starting out to be a novel and then becoming social commentary but nevertheless it evidently made a powerful difference at the time that it was published in forming public opinions and is still one of the greatest examples of literature in the Netherlands.

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