Multatuli

Multatuli (the pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker; 1820–1887) was born in Amsterdam and served as a colonial official in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) for almost twenty years. His protests against abuses in the Dutch colonial system led to tension with his superiors and eventually to his resignation in 1856. He hoped that the novel Max Havelaar (1860), by bringing the problems to public attention, would lead to meaningful reform and his reinstatement as a senior official. The book was a great success and provoked public and political debate, eventually leading to changes in colonial policy, and Multatuli became a celebrated author. Yet he argued that these changes did not truly address the issues he had exposed, and was disappointed that Max Havelaar had not propelled him into an illustrious career in public administration or politics. He eventually concluded that Dutch colonialism was doomed to fail. Multatuli’s social criticism continued in his later work, such as the popular play School for Princes (1872) and the semiautobiographical novel Woutertje Pieterse (1890), about a young boy in late eighteenth-century Amsterdam. Today he is regarded as Holland’s greatest writer of the nineteenth century and the father of contemporary Dutch literature. His many admirers have included D.H. Lawrence and Sigmund Freud.