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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 3

In Analysis of Plot, Batavus Droogstoppel, Frits Droogstoppel, Scarfman, The Editor on 03/04/2009 at 14:20

I think Frits’ poem is nothing short of lovely. Well, technically it is Scarfman’s poem, of course, but it was Frits who got his hands on it and decided that it was special enough to memorize and recite to Droogstoppel and family. Thank God he did it, too, for it was his foray into Scarfman’s parcel that began Droogstoppel’s interest in his other works. Naturally, however, Droogstoppel hated the poem before he even heard it. Anything to do with verse, and all interest goes out the window for him. He really is a strange character.  He is quite possibly the least imaginative and open minded writer I have ever worked with in my life.

                And again, I cannot help but notice his self importance! It seeps into every page, in the way he interrupts Scarfman’s letter and criticizes line after line – poor Scarfman was probably only trying to be humble, and yet Droogstoppel cannot look past his appearance and his job. The first mention of the word poet and Droogstoppel already resorts to onomatopoeia to express his disgust!

                Obviously as soon as Frits began actually reciting one of Scarfman’s poems in front of not only him but his friends and family, Droogstoppel seemed almost ready to shoot himself! He called it “nonsense” and deemed it “lies and tomfoolery”. Well, I’d like to see him try and write two lines with as much feeling as Scarfman did in his poem.

                Anyway, fortunately the publisher agreed with me on the poem and we convinced Droogstoppel to write it in the novel. It builds Scarfman’s character, if nothing else, and it really is a sweet story.


The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.