Max Havelaar : Or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company, Paperback

Max Havelaar : Or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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 expose 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140445169



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

A very interesting read - a 19th century Dutch novel, written to highlight the injustices of the Dutch control of Java. The author - Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli is a pseudonym) - was not pleased that people found it 'entertaining' - and yet it is, for various reasons (all of which make it a 'Classic', rather than a book-of-its-time). Firstly, the author uses a most interesting narrative structure, with multiple voices which continually calls attention to the fictitious nature of the narrative - Charlotte Bronte's "Reader, I married him" pales into insiginifcance. Secondly, the book genuinely is entertaining: there are parts where I felt the description of politicing in the Indies was too long, but mostly the movement from one kind of writing to another is done so neatly, at exactly the right point, that oral storytelling techniques, humour, description, dialogue and suspense are all played in turn in an elegant sufficiency. Also fascinating those words which Multatuli felt needed glosses which are now familiar to English readers: gong, batik, sarong, gamalan.

Review by

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.

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