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The Editor’s Notes: Chapters 14-15

In Analysis of Plot, Batavus Droogstoppel, Character Development, Max Havelaar, The Editor on 19/04/2009 at 23:19

                The other day my wife (my Marieke!) asked to read the newest drafts of the novel. Having just finished reviewing chapters 14 and 15 I could only hand over the pages with a heavy heart. Just as I expected, this morning I found Marieke bent over the manuscript, and very much upset. It was difficult to comfort her, for though I am no expert on the affairs in Java, it has become my opinion that what Scarfman has produced in his writings is truth, and that all the optimism we may have heard here in Amsterdam about Java is most probably not.

                Even Droogstoppel was affected, for he was still a man proud of his country, and it did not please him to hear that such ‘outrageous abuses’ were, and still is happening right under our King’s nose. The corruption, the half-heartedness, the cowardice of the residents and governors! It was enough to make Marieke stop buying salt for a week in protest. And she had not even read the whole of the writings.

                The lighter parts of these chapters deal with Havelaar’s kindness, and the German poem quoted as a testimony to his heart has sneaked into mine, and become one of my favorites. What worries is the foreshadowing at the end of chapter 14, where ‘dark clouds’ are mentioned to be fast approaching our hero. Even the end of chapter 15 is no less promising! Here the narrator creates a sense of frustration and hopelessness with his repeated exclamations: “What good has it done him?”  (page 237). I falter in my optimism, but I cannot help nurse a small ray of hope that our hero might succeed in the end, for at least his letter to Verbrugge shows his determination and sense of justice is unwavering. It also helps that it seems the people of Lebak are finding confidence and trust in him, as they recognize his genuine care for not only his duty as written in the oath, but for what is right as written in his heart.

                Havelaar is becoming a great protagonist. I have no doubt that readers will side with him, which I find very important as we are dealing with a very sensitive issue, and this novel’s success largely depends on how much our hero can persuade readers to believe in him. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m glad it was Droogstoppel who came across this manuscript first. In him we find the perfect tint of black to bring out the light in Havelaar.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.


The Editor’s Notes: Chapter 13

In Analysis of Plot, Narrative Perspectives, Scarfman, The Editor on 19/04/2009 at 21:01

                I found this chapter to be a very sweet one. Now, Droogstoppel would probably shake his head at me for referring to a piece of digression as ‘sweet’, but I do find it a dear little excerpt in the novel, and furthermore I fully agree with the narrator’s notions on digressions in general.

                Apart from being a description of Havelaar’s new house and compound, this digression also shows us some ‘undergrowth’ in that it is interlaced with remarks and mentions of cultural and colonial matters. His note on the difference between not only the housing in Indonesia to those of Europe, but also the civilization, reminds readers to leave their assumptions at the door when reading this novel, for life in Java is, to most of us, unfamiliar in so many ways.

                Also in this chapter, a further mention of Mrs. Slotering, who is slowly becoming the most mysterious character in the story. Her reclusive tendencies (or discretions, as Tina puts it) are often charged on her being a ‘native child’ whose life as an Assistant Resident’s wife has made her ‘fond of exercising authority’.

                Anyway, on the editing end of things, as I’ve said, I’m quite happy with this little chapter, for the language, especially on the first part (on digressions and the two extremes) is beautiful and the imagery rich. I cannot help but admire a writer who can paint pictures with his words. I must say Scarfman has done very well in avoiding ‘coarse brushwork’ and ‘screaming colors’.

I’m quite looking forward to tomorrow, for I feel now we have really sunk our teeth into the story, and it can only get better from here on out! Anyone else feeling the rising action?

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.


The Editor’s Notes: Chapters 11-12

In Analysis of Plot, Analysis of Structure, Max Havelaar, The Editor on 19/04/2009 at 19:21

So now we pick up again where we left off.  It’s true, these two chapters aren’t the most exciting. Even Frits showed signs of boredom – the thing that animated him the most was Havelaar’s musings on the beautiful women of Arles, which I have to admit, intrigued me as well. Havelaar was an interesting man; eloquent and well-read, and even funny, too! The stories of the stolen turkey, and his days in Sumatra, all had a certain self-deprecating charm to it which was emphasized by the way he mocked his own vanity and youth:

“Among other things, I considered it beneath my dignity to inspect pepper plantations, and that I should have been appointed governor of a solar system long ago.” (page 159)

Another interesting point of these two chapters is that it contains many excerpts of verses and stories, which helps add variation to the structure of the novel, and also builds Havelaar’s character. What I also appreciate, is how small characters and events have been woven subtly into each scene; from Miss Mata-Api to Si Upi Keteh, to the shy Mrs. Slotering next door. It gives the story a depth, like the layers of an onion… or perhaps an artichoke – coating the heart of the story and adding to its shape and flavor.

                Still, it did make me a bit uncomfortable, sifting through the banter, which was as often trivial as it was deeply rooted in serious matters, and deciding which was fit to be included in the novel. Stern helped much, and surprisingly even Droogstoppel, for his distaste for poetry and verse at least reined us in from over-contemplating the excerpts mentioned by Havelaar. Sometimes I am still unsure whether the reader would persist in reading through so much conversation, but I feel that the chapters are the way they should be now, for they do show you much about our hero and heroine.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.

The Editor’s Notes: Chapters 9-10

In Analysis of Structure, Batavus Droogstoppel, Frits Droogstoppel, Narrative Perspectives, The Editor on 19/04/2009 at 14:58

                These two chapters taught me 3 things.

1.       I will never go to a sermon by Parson Blatherer.

2.       Frits and Stern have really got it worse off than I do, for they have to deal with Droogstoppel every day while I only see him every other day.

3.       Droogstoppel’s an absolute idiot.

Pardon me, I must admit that number 3 is not exactly true, for, if anything, Droogstoppel is smart when it comes to being a coffee broker. But when it comes to being a human being, he has got nothing on Frits or Stern, or even, dare I say it, myself. At least my heart is sensitive enough not to be blinded by prejudices made here in Amsterdam of people there in Java, who’s lives we cannot imagine, and should not judge as blasphemous! So they may have a different faith – I do not approve of it, of course, for I am a man of God too, but I will not say they are bad people because of it, and I certainly will never blame their skin color for it! Frits and I have had many discussions on this. It’s interesting to see how defensive he has become over the Javanese, and it is nothing short of hilarious seeing Droogstoppel twitch in frustration when they begin to argue.

Another thing I’ve taken for granted is how very well Stern and I have been working these past weeks. He’s a good writer, and he understands the story well. Most of all he cares about it – and not just the coffee auctions part of it, but everything. This story deserves nothing less in a writer.

So, that’s what I’ve learnt, more or less. I only wish Droogstoppel could learn that a poem should not be taken literally, and that its beauty is much more than in its ‘jingle-jangle of words’. Stupid man.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.

The Editor’s Notes: Chapters 7-8

In Analysis of Plot, Analysis of Structure, Batavus Droogstoppel, Frits Droogstoppel, Max Havelaar, Narrative Perspectives, Scarfman, The Editor, Tina Havelaar on 19/04/2009 at 14:07

You know what really strikes me as interesting in regards to the narrative perspective of this story? The fact that Scarfman rarely ever mentions who he actually is. Never is his name mentioned, let alone his profession or his address, and though he seems to be quite omniscient about all the characters around him, there is no interaction between them. It is as if Scarfman, or whoever the narrator is supposed to be, is a ghost hovering above Max Havelaar’s story; watching events as they unfold, and at the same time providing clues and hints as to what may come in the future. He is at one moment spontaneous in his responses, and the next he has taken a step back from the story and acts as writer once again in addressing the reader and explaining terms or ideas which may be unfamiliar.

                He is also definitely a learned man; for his language is always rich and his digressions thoughtful and interesting. What’s also apparent is his tenderness towards Tina Havelaar! If I didn’t know any better I would have thought that Scarfman adored Tina a little more than is the norm, if you catch my drift. She is painted as a woman simple in taste and needs, poor in money but overflowing in generosity and understanding. But the most definitive feature of Tina’s personality is probably her unconditional love for Max, both ‘big’ and ‘little’. It still makes me smile each time Scarfman reminds us of their relationship by the nicknames: ‘her Max’ and ‘his Tina’. I’ve even started thinking about my wife as ‘my Marieke’ because of this!  

                Anyway, back to the story itself. In chapter 8 Scarfman had written a very long transcript of Havelaar’s first speech at his division’s council meeting. Through his words we truly saw for the first time glimpses of life in Lebak for the local population, and all the hardships and injustices that the authorities throw in the face of the poor Javanese. I would rather not talk about how disgruntled Droogstoppel was when I put my foot down and insisted the speech not be cut in any way. He said it was ‘excessive’ and ‘not relatable’ and that, basically, such overzealous drool would only drive readers away.

My theory is that he can’t stand the fact that the protagonist of this most important story was, as Scarfman mentions, very much a poet. And, he, a man of truth and honor, only a coffee broker, with no novel written about his life. In his jealousy he even pointed out with a laugh (several times) that Havelaar was poor, as if to say, ‘of course the man’s got no money, what can you expect from a poet!’

                Frits and I just ignore him, most of the time. I think we’ve both realized that no matter how poetic and emotional Havelaar’s speeches were, how much trouble he has gotten himself into financially, and how many people find him ‘peculiar’, the fact is, it is this uniqueness, this difference between him and other chiefs and governors, that make him a truly ‘good Assistant Resident’.  Maybe not quite a prophet, but a good man, definitely.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.

The Editor’s Notes: Chapter 6

In Analysis of Plot, Batavus Droogstoppel, Max Havelaar, Scarfman, The Editor, Tina Havelaar, Verbrugge on 19/04/2009 at 14:05

Finally! This is the chapter where story itself, the actual plot, really begins.

Straight away we get more Malay words, more Indonesian names, (which, I must admit, were a little bit confusing at the beginning, but it is out of the question to edit it out or change it) and, for the first time in Scarfman’s story, new characters. We are introduced to Residents and Regents, servants (maas) and horsemen, and last but not least, an Assistant Resident by the name of Max Havelaar.

Our protagonist.

One of the most important parts of this chapter is, I think, Scarfman’s beautiful introduction to the kind of man that Max is (pg 89). It is again very noticeable how different Scarfman’s writing (and also the kind of person he is) in contrast to our own Droogstoppel. Oh the irony! It makes me chuckle at first, but I realize now how sad it is that the Scarfman, a man who Droogstoppel portrays as inferior to him in every respect, even in honesty and respectability, pays more attention to being objective and truthful than Droogstoppel has probably ever done in his life. For example, look at what he says here after his description of Max:

“Granted, all definitions are difficult in themselves, they become even more so when it is a question of describing a person who greatly deviates from the everyday norm. No doubt this is why novelists usually make their heroes devils or angels. Black and white are easy to paint; but it is more difficult to produce the exact shades and nuances that lie between them when one is bound by the truth and may therefore not tint the picture either too dark or too light. I feel that the sketch I have tried to give of Havelaar is extremely incomplete.” – page 91

Ha! If only Droogstoppel was smart enough to realize that he’s guilty of this all – especially in his descriptions and judgments of Scarfman! It seems obvious to me that it’s Scarfman who truly understands what it is to be truthful – not Droogstoppel. And, also, he is so humble! He recognizes his limits, admitting that his descriptions of Havelaar is ‘incomplete’, while actually he has written almost 3 whole pages on the man. It’s much more modesty than I’ll ever see out of Droogstoppel, that’s for sure.

                All in all those three or so pages gave a description of a man who Scarfman not only admired but respected very deeply; despite the flaws which he does have – Max Havelaar is neither a saint nor a sinner, but a man who is clever, just, sensitive and experienced; a man of humanity. I must applaud Scarfman for not only attempting but succeeding in avoiding the black-and-white approach to characterization – the people we’ve seen in this chapter, from Regent Adhipatti to Verbrugge to Tina Havelaar, all seem rounded and firmly grounded in reality.

                Scarfman deserves more credit than he gets.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.

Hot & Not List #4

In Character Development, Gossip, Uncategorized, What's hot what's not on 18/04/2009 at 19:22

*yawn* I must tell you, my loyal fans, I am getting quite bored of Batavus Droogstoppel droning on and on and on and on about his ideals. The way he speaks to his son, not to mention Frits the hottie, is steadily getting on my nerves…and for that reason he earned not only 1st place on our Hot List, but also 2nd, 3rd and 5th; with Abraham Blankhaart in 4th (but he was inserted, somewhat sarcastically, at the last minute…mainly because my editors did not think it right to single Droogstoppel out SO obviously. Ehem). As for the hottie of the week, that of course goes to our resident German; Fritz! Betsey Rosemeyer sure is one lucky lady! Rawrrrr.

Now, enough of last edition; this time we’re going back to Java (do you see a pattern forming dear reader?)…let’s see what’s been going on in the quaint little town of Lebak…

What’s Hot:

  1. Max Havelaar: Yes dear readers, I have put Mr. Havelaar on top of the Hot List. I know some of you were quite outraged when I placed him at the top of the Not List…but I this has been one of those (rare) occasions where I do in fact see the error of my ways and change my mind…now, Havelaar is on the list for his story about saving the Sumatran girl, Si Upih Keteh, when she fell into the ocean years ago.
  2. Miss Mata-Api: She is, as Verbrugge describes, a hottie; with sparkling eyes (hence her name…for all you non-Indo speakers LOOK IT UP). She ears a place on the hot list for driving the men around her mad with her hotness.
  3. Yours Truly: just because I can 🙂 Unfortunately hot people are scarce these days…and I have enough to fill 20 lists! Might as well spread it around!

What’s Not:

  1. Verbrugge: Telling a story (one sentence long) about a man who stole a turkey? BORRRINNNGGG.
  2. Tina Havelaar: Sneezing? Guh-rosssss! How DARE a woman blow her nose in the presence of men! Ehem…
  3. Miss X: No, my sources have not been able to track down her real name…but even so this English woman lands on the Not List for giving birth to a child…and then losing it. I mean, come on, losing your baby?? How does that happen??
  4. Batavus Droogstoppel: just because. Meh.

Mrs. Havelaars travel and culture diary #2

In Cultural Context, Language Tips, Max Havelaar, Mrs Havelaar's Travel Despatch, Tina Havelaar on 18/04/2009 at 18:12
The first topeng show that little Max and I watched

The first topeng show that little Max and I watched

Max, my husband has been working hard, always in the room next to me. He is such a sweetheart, as we both do our separate writing, him his work and me my column he is always close by. It has been a lot of fun, sometimes when he begins saying a word or phrase out loud I can finish what he was about to say, it is as if we have the same mind!

Our neighbor, Mrs. Slotering who lives across the road has an annoying obsession with sending away anybody that enters the complex. It is really getting on my nerves as there is nothing in the dapur(kitchen), by the chance that a person may be coming into the complex to sell fruit and vegetables I would like be able to buy them, but I cant as she wont let anybody in. I had never known why she had everybody sent away until one afternoon when I was having tea she sent away another man, and my husband daringly confronted her asking, “Well, Mrs. Slotering, I wish you would tell me why you always send away anyone who enters the compound? Suppose, now, that man who just came in had had chickens for sale, or something else which we could do with in the kitchen?” After replying with a vague answer my husband continued to ask, it was quite amusing. All of a sudden she burst into tears! She proceeded to tell us a very interesting story that had quite a shocked effect on the both of us.

Her husband, wanting to change the laws to be just to the people had been poisoned! I immediately understood her actions and felt horrible for misunderstanding. My thoughts then turned to my husband, Max! What if he was poisoned? He is trying to do the same as Mrs. Sloterings husband did, I was frightened, and decided to strictly monitor the kitchen and food. I wasn’t going to let either of my precious Max’s be poisoned.

After the incident my husband asked me to take little Max and travel to Batavia, as he was about to bring a charge against the resident. I was extremely upset and begged him to let me stay, I wasn’t going to leave him, I was going to eat and drink with him. He gave in and we proceeded to live in the house. I became very cautious with the food that we ate and kept a locked cupboard in which we stored all of our food. Little Max and I spent our days learning Indonesian, here are a list of some of the words we have learned so far:

good-morning- salamat pagi

good-afternoon- salamat sore

good-evening- slamat malam

bye bye- selemat tinggal






rice- nasi






Besides learning Indonesian we have been enjoying the topeng shows (a traditional dance where the dancers wear masks) Max is in love with the type of music gamelan and is fascinated with the instruments. He has been begging me to buy him a reyong (one of the instruments used in the ensemble) for his birthday. I am planning to order him one in advance with his name carved in the woodwork in time for his birthday. Above is a still photograph of the first topeng show we went to, I plan on having a collection of still photographs to display once we make our way back to Holland.

Hopefully by the next column I will have more still photographs and language lessons to share, salamat tinggal!

Mrs. Havelaar

In Cultural Context, Max Havelaar, Mrs Havelaar's Travel Despatch, Tina Havelaar on 16/04/2009 at 14:13
our last sight of holland

our last sight of holland

Mrs. Havelaars travel and culture diary

When my husband, who is in the coffee business, informed me that we were going to travel to Java, I was shocked yet excited. I decided it would be a new adventure for our family, so as I agreed and my husband, son and I left for Java. I knew it was going to be a challenge, the different culture and customs of the land and people. But I was ready; I decided to create a column to send back to Holland monthly to be published in the local newspaper, so people will be able to read about Java from a different perspective other than the usual coffee traders’ articles (which usually are about coffee). Our journey was certainly an adventure, my last photograph of Holland (as seen above) is when we were about to board the ship, our first stop was Cape Town then the south of Africa, India and finally our destination, Java. Traveling with little Max was not easy, he grew restless when we were at sea for long periods of time. There was never any fresh food and I often became sea sick. I recommend to all travelers making this trip to bring crackers, I found that this helped a lot with overcoming sea sickness. We were traveling with coffee and spice traders, one of the pepper traders, Hans, was an older man who had many experiences over seas in foreign lands and at night he would entertain us all with wild stories, little Max enjoyed these. Sometimes his stories would scare us, stories of pirates and ship raids in the Indonesian waters. As we reached these waters I couldn’t help but look out for pirates, my husband thought I was being ridiculously paranoid. When we reached Java there was a large group of natives waiting for our arrival they had fruits, in woven baskets which were beautiful, and their clothing! The men wore long skirts called a sarong, the women wore these as well. Beautiful cloth, intricately woven with marvelous dyes and patterns, it was hot and humid, very different from the cold weather in Holland. We then had to travel by horse pulled carts to our new home but before Max had to have a meeting with Javanese royal members which was very tiring as I had to wait and look out for little Max and we were both restless from the long trip. Although something interesting did happen during their meeting, little Max was near the royal members and two of the men started talking in the native language, Indonesian, and looking at the top of his head. Apparently he is a royal child because he has a user-useran, a double crown of hair which in Javanese culture is meant that the owner is destined eventually to wear a royal crown. I found this to be a charming thing to learn about the culture and cannot wait to learn more, I am already quite taken with the country and am excited to share my excitement with Holland.

Spy #3 – Max’s first speech

In Espionage, For the British East India Company (Undercover Agent), Verbrugge on 15/04/2009 at 11:11

Today I witnessed an incredible feeling; Havealarr is a true poet of discussion. His words are more powerful then a pointed gun locked and loaded, ready to fire. Working for the British East Indian trading company if they knew how I felt about this man it would ruin my reputation and most likely ban me from my job.

I cannot let this affect my work, I must continue to find out how the Dutch East Indian trading company works, (remember stay on the job!!!). Back to duty….. Havelarr gave a speech to many of the chiefs here in Rangkas-Betung, which I am told only occurs once a month. The speech began as all of us at the table were unprepared for what would come out of his mouth. He talked of slight changes that would lead to a better life not just for him but for the company and the people in Lebak. One move in a different direction would create an immense full change. I am beginning to believe that the truth behind the secret to the Company is not any one thing, but it is how important the leaders perform. It seems that the General was right in setting me this course. Even though Max was an Assistant Resident and had been working for less that 24 hours, he was talking as if he had been on the job for a decade, and knew everything he wanted for Indonesia and the Company.

As I was taking notes on all of his ideas, his main concern was of mistakes and that all humans make mistakes, but it was their job to minimize these. Havelarr used both justice and paternalistic leadership styles. It was not that he wanted to strike fear into his chiefs, but he wanted them to believe in him enough so that he would be respected and trusted

After his talk and all the chiefs dispersed, I stayed back as my secret identity. Havelarr took me aside and asked me if I knew anything about scandalous abuse of authority in Lebak. General had informed me of some backstabbing going on but I was unaware so I decided to play the part and act as if I knew what Max was talking about. I learned that the Regent used forced labor to do all his biddings (almost three times as many people). Max started getting very emotional and I saw his caring side. Max stated that once the coffee was gone, the regent would steal money from the people in his name. Why did the Regent would do this if he already had some fortune, while almost all the natives of Lebak are poor working every day for little or nothing? General I have done some fantastic research, and am slowly unfurling the web of the Dutch company. Max is a stable resource for information, and it looks like I’ll be playing the part for a while here. If possible could you please send me more disguises.