Eduard Douwes Dekker, also known as Multatuli
|Born||Eduard Douwes Dekker
2 March 1820
Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
|Died||19 February 1887
Nieder Ingelheim, Rhine, Germany
Eduard Douwes Dekker (2 March 1820 – 19 February 1887), better known by his pen name Multatuli (from Latin multa tuli, "I have suffered much"), was a Dutch writer famous for his satirical novel Max Havelaar (1860), which denounced the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia).
Douwes Dekker was born in Amsterdam. His father was a ship's captain and intended his son for a career in trade. This humdrum prospect disgusted Douwes Dekker and in 1838 he obtained a post as a civil servant on the island of Java. During the period between 1848 and 1851 Douwes Dekker eventually rose to serve as assistant resident in various regencies in the Indonesian archipelago including Natal, North Sumatra, Manado in Sulawesi and Ambon in the Moluccas. In 1857 he was transferred to Lebak, in the Bantam residency of Java (now Banten province). By this time, however, all the secrets of Dutch administration were known to him, and he had begun to openly protest about the abuses of the colonial system. Consequently, he was threatened with dismissal from his office for his openness of speech. Douwes Dekker resigned his appointment and returned to the Netherlands.
He was determined to expose in detail the scandals he had witnessed, and he began to do so in newspaper articles and pamphlets. Little notice, however, was taken of his protestations until, in 1860, he published his novel Max Havelaar under the pseudonym of Multatuli. Douwes Dekker's new pseudonym, which is derived from Latin, means, "I have suffered much", or, more literally "I have borne much" referring to himself, as well as, it is thought, to the victims of the injustices he saw. An attempt was made to suppress the inflammatory book, but in vain; it was read all over Europe. Colonialist apologists accused Douwes Dekker's horrific depictions of being hyperbolic. Multatuli now began his literary career, and published Love Letters (1861), which, in spite of their mild title, were mordant, unsparing satires.
Although the literary merit of Multatuli's work was widely criticised, he received an unexpected and most valuable ally in Carel Vosmaer who published a book (The Sower 1874) praising him. He continued to write much, and to publish his miscellanies in uniform volumes called Ideas, of which seven appeared between 1862 and 1877 and also contain his novel Woutertje Pieterse (Little Walter Pieterse).
Douwes Dekker left Holland, and went to live in Ingelheim am Rhein near Mainz, where he made several attempts to write for the stage. One of his pieces, The School for Princes (published in 1875 in the fourth volume of Ideas), expresses his non-conformist views on politics, society and religion. He moved his residence to Nieder Ingelheim, on the Rhine, where he died in 1887.
Douwes is commonly thought, wrongly, to be his middle name. Douwes Dekker is the combined form of both of his grandparents' last names, chosen after they couldn't decide which of their names they should give him.
- Multatuli, Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, 1995, ISBN 0-14-044516-1.
- Een Zaaier: studiën over Multatuli's werken Carel Vosmaer, Amsterdam : G.L. Funke, 1874
- Freud, S. (1907). Contribution to a Questionnaire on Reading. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IX (1906–1908), 245–247.
-  accessed on 30 November 2005
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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