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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: 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 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.

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.

“Coffee With Max Havelaar” – What makes him tick??

In Analysis of Plot, Coffee with Max Havelaar, Max Havelaar on 14/04/2009 at 18:03

Host: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of “Coffee with Max Havelaar”! (Applause). As promised, today, we are back with our most valued ‘co-host’ if you may, to help us verify who the characters of Max Havelaar are, and why they do what they do. Now, let’s talk a bit about this character – Max Havelaar. So Multatuli, Havelaar is clearly presented as a complex character. Prior to reading the novel, I was given the impression that this was most probably the most remarkable man in his time and homeland. However, the ever-changing perspectives in the story openly depict both the positive and negative sides of his being, like his weaknesses. 

“Full of love for truth and justice, he frequently neglected his nearest, most obvious duty, in order to redress a wrong that lay higher, further, or deeper, and that drew him by the probable need for greater effort in the struggle.” – page 89. 

Could this complexity and slight instability of his character be a reflection of your own being?     

Multatuli: I consider this story not entirely a fiction, but an autobiography. As I said a while ago, Max Havelaar was created as a consequence of my own experiences as an Assistant Resident trying to oppose oppression and seeking justice.  When he is introduced, Havelaar is presented as a generous individual who holds passionate ideas in his career and his goals to relieve East Java of oppression and abuse of labor. But he is also described as approachable, he is strong-willed, and he is without doubt a gentleman of high reputation. Above all, he is a family man, which makes his character all the more balanced and not to mention quite enviable. However, one of the main conflicts which this magnificent person clearly faces is his financial affairs, something which both separates him from and reflects upon the readers.  

Host: Well…everyone has problems with this don’t they? Sure, I love to go out every now and then to splurge on the finer things in life…we all do. But Max Havelaar…he seems to be the complete opposite of what we may judge as the common binger. He spends on people who are needy! In the book, he could have invented the term ‘charity’ himself! What better way to spend than to spend on others rather than on oneself, but the funny question is…why does a hero ultimately suffer for having done so many great deeds?

Multatuli: In Max Havelaar, I wanted to make this character believable and hoped the audience would grow with him: to grow attached to him and learn to support his motives and decisions. His tendency to react to justice is a major weakness in his character, because as we know, everything done in excess comes with its own consequences. Donating to any needy native causes him to cut back on his own finances and his family to struggle.

“For I am no fly-rescuing poet, no half-baked dreamer like the downtrodden Havelaar, who did his duty with the courage of a lion and now starves with the patience of a marmot in the winter.” – page 320    

I believe this struggle which Max Havelaar eventually experiences is what truly makes the story all the more realistic, and how I intended it to be from the beginning. 

Host: Indeed, it is definitely realistic, because it explains to the audience that not all heroic acts are successful, doesn’t it. There is one more thing…Havelaar’s situation somehow reminds me of a little story at the beginning of the novel which our Mr. Batavus Droogstoppel elaborates on. Remember when his hat “was blown” into a canal;

“I gave a couple of stivers to the man who brought it backto me, and he was quite satisfied. I’m well aware I should have had to give him more if he had fished me out of the water, but certainly not half my fortune, because it’s obvious that, in that way, you only have to fall into the water twice to be reduced to beggary.” – page 21

Do you consider this assumption a kind of comic foreshadowing for what is to happen to Havelaar?

Multatuli: Well not really foreshadowing…but I suppose it’s more of a simplified comparison – since we know that Droogstoppel has probably been made aware of Havelaar, and like the judgmental individual he is, tends to ridicule him.

Host: Well ladies and gentlemen…My coffee is over! Please give a round of applause for Multatuli, and join us again next time to discuss “Saïja’s journey”.


Spy – Latest Discovery

In Espionage, For the British East India Company (Undercover Agent), Max Havelaar on 13/04/2009 at 09:08

I apologize for the lateness of my most recent response governor, but as I have said I am the spy above all spies requiring me to do more work in as little time as possible, you must understand. I have outstanding news for you lord, as I have uncovered some truly impeccable information dealing with the Dutch East Indies (those worthless ****). Anyway, back to my latest discovery, the secret to the well tuned Dutch is their system of power. The ‘Kingdom of the Netherlands” is entirely a team effort, which begins with the Governor-General, who is assisted by a council. This then branches out to departments which forms a link between the supreme authority and Residents (which control an area they occupy outside of the Netherlands such as Batavia). By appointing chiefs such as the Resident and Assistant resident (who I am have been affirmed from an inside man is a new man by the name of Havelaar), it enables officials to stay in close contact with their high-er powers. In this way the Dutch followed in the steps of the Romans, whose purpose for this was make certain that each region remained a province, or a conquered region. It is becoming clearer and clearer to the secret of the Dutch, only now I must focus on a particular aspect and go undercover. I am tired of hiding away in the forest. This Havelaar seems to be a character; I might be able to justify what I have found out by paying close attention to him. Alas I must go, but you will be hearing from me soon Governor, the real secret to the Dutch may still be out there, but for now I am assured that the system of power is able to keep control of everything.