Bali IB DP English

The Editor’s Notes: Chapter 5

In Analysis of Plot, Analysis of Structure, Batavus Droogstoppel, Narrative Perspectives, Scarfman, The Editor on 13/04/2009 at 12:14

                It was strange. Like going from a crowded dinner party into the broom closet under the stairs, it was a sort of relief, switching Droogstoppel’s narration for Scarfman’s. There is so much less… dribble. Scarfman’s voice is softer somehow; he does not smother the reader with a billion references to the first-person singular. I quite like the contrast.

                So we decided to go straight in to the story, with as little editing as possible. It was kind of like diving in at the deep end, but I think it’s good that the readers notice immediately the change in tone – something that tells them to straighten up in their chairs because what they’re about to read now is a story as important as any.  

                There was not so much editing to be done; Scarfman wrote with a straightforward, natural hand which made his sometimes long explanations quite bearable to read, for it felt like he was telling it to a friend. His opinions were clear, though not imposing, giving a sense of a man who knew where he stood, and was passionate but at the same time composed, in telling his story.

It was obvious that he sided with the Javanese. He did not praise them to high heavens, no – he recognized their faults as a collective who suffered from “excessive submissiveness” , and as individuals who possess such “princely carelessness”. But in spite of all the Regents who were not much more than robbers, in spite of all the poor who did nothing to change their situation, Scarfman wrote with a bitterness that could only come from one who saw the Javanese as the victims, and the Europeans, the Dutch, as the perpetrator.

It’s difficult for me to read it, and to comb through it like I have to. I don’t want to read that we are oppressing a whole nation this way. I don’t want to know that millions of people are starving because of us. Shouldn’t a poor country prosper under our King’s care? Why do I have this feeling that we are making slaves of a population? And why does Droogstoppel not seem deeply affected by this? All he cares is to make sure that all Malay words are translated correctly.

I’ve cut off the chapter at page 77, at the climax of the passage – where Scarfman has written with the most emotion and resentment. Besides, it has been a long chapter of much information. If any reader is going to understand the novel, it might do them some good to take a pause before we dive into the next section of the story.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.

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  1. This is excellent work! You have managed to stay in character and yet comment on the effect of the narrative style- brilliant play on Droogstoppel and dribble!

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