How 'Max Havelaar' Became One of the Most Famous Books in Dutch Literature

Multatuli's book has become known all over the world

By Google Arts & Culture

The National Library of the Netherlands

Portret van de schrijver Multatuli (1863 - 1867) by Mitkiewicz, CésarRijksmuseum

The book Max Havelaar (or The coffee auctions of the Dutch Trading Company) first appeared in 1860.

The book had been written the previous year by Multatuli (a pseudonym of Eduard Douwes Dekker).

Portret van Multatuli (1874) by Allebé, AugustRijksmuseum

Multatuli instantly became famous in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies through his novel, which was a fierce indictment of colonial rule.

In 1999, the famous Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer called Max Havelaar in the New York Times "The Book That Killed Colonialism." To this day, Max Havelaar is one of the most famous books in Dutch literature.

Portret van Multatuli (ca. 1875 - ca. 1940) by Algemeen Hollands FotopersbureauRijksmuseum

The book is also famous outside the Netherlands and has been translated into more than forty languages.

This was one of Multatuli's wishes as he wanted to see his work translated into all languages so it could be read all over the world: "Ay, I shall be read!"

We imagine Multatuli would be proud that his work is now available worldwide on Google Books.

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