Max Havelaar is a Dutch novel written by Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker), published in 1860, which takes place in Java and denounces the colonial exploitation in the Dutch East Indies .

The novel

Published in 1860 in Amsterdam , this novel written in 1859 in Brussels, in the Gallery of the Prince, by Eduard Douwes Dekker under the pseudonym of Multatuli tells the story of a colonial official Dutch who rebels against the oppression of the people Javanese in the Dutch East Indies , a colony of the Netherlands .

The hero of this story is called Max Havelaar , but it would be enough if he bears the name of the author for the novel to become autobiographical.

Early in the novel, the story is introduced by Batavus Drystubble second partner of Last and C °, Commissionaires cafes on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, Canal des Lauriers, o 37, in which the supposed author, who is in the misery, appealed to help him edit his manuscript.

Max Havelaar happens in residentie (administrative district) of Banten in western island Java to occupy the post of Assistant Resident , seconded to the regent of Lebak , Javanese prefect responsible for the administration of the population native .

In his address of arrival, he reminded the customary chiefs that he brought together, that is to say, the bupati and the district chiefs who depend on him, their duties towards the population. Unfortunately, he quickly realizes that the words that all have spoken are just words, far from a truth that is this:

  • On the one hand, coffee prices in Holland mean that prices must be low, and each one wanting to keep his profits , it is on the wages of the small producers that the economy is made.
  • on the other hand, the peasants are oppressed by hard labor and unpaid labor and the thefts of cattle that the bupati inflicts on them to maintain their lifestyle and prestige. The victims hesitate to complain because hierarchically, the assistant-resident must refer to the bupati , their executioner. One can indeed speak of executioner because the rare people to have complained were punished, sometimes by the death.

The resident of Banten turns a blind eye to these practices because in his report to the governor general of the Netherlands Indies he would be obliged to set a negative tone, which is not appreciated. The governor general also prefers to give only good news to the king. This is how everyone closes their eyes out of interest, laziness, cowardice, fear for their status or their life. Max Havelaar will denounce this system to his direct superior, then, in the face of his inaction, will bypass the hierarchy to warn the governor-general who will blame for his failure to respect the bupati and the hierarchy.

Max Havelaar will have a huge impact in the Netherlands. It will trigger a progressive movement of opinion that will lead to the promotion of an “ethical policy” in the Dutch Indies, anxious to improve the lot of the natives.

Cover of the first edition of the French translation, Dentu, Paris, 1876


On other Wikimedia projects:

  • Max Havelaar (novel) , on Wikisource
  • First edition, Max Havelaar, of De koffie-veilingen der De Nederlandsche handelsmaatschappij , De Ruyter, Amsterdam, 1860. [ read online  [ archive ] ] on Google Books.
  • English translation by Alphonse Nahuïs, Max Havelaar or the coffee auctions of the dutch trading company , Edinburgh, 1868
  • Fourth edition, with twenty pages of notes and clarifications by the author, Funke, Amsterdam, 1875
  • French translation of the fourth edition, by AJ Nieuwenhuis and Henri Crisafulli, Max Havelaar , two volumes, Dentu, Paris, 1876. Read online on Wikisource.
  • French translation by Philippe Noble, Max Havelaar or coffee sales of the Netherlands trading company , Actes Sud, Arles, 2003, Babel collection ( ISBN  9782742745579 ) .
  • Bilingual Dutch-French, with audio playback in integrated VO, trad. AJ Nieuwenhuis and Henri Crisafulli, L’Accolade Éditions, Venterol, 2016, coll. Artifact, 828 p. ( ISBN  9791095428206 ) .