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Multatuli

From Academic Kids

photo courtesy of Robertson/Kerr Photography
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photo courtesy of Robertson/Kerr Photography

Eduard Douwes Dekker (2 March 1820 - 19 February 1887), better known by his pen name Multatuli, was a Dutch writer famous for his satirical novel, Max Havelaar (1860) in which he denounced the abuses of colonialism in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia.

Dekker was born in Amsterdam. His father, a ship's captain, intended his son for trade, but this humdrum prospect disgusted him, and in 1838 he went out to Java and obtained a post in the Inland Revenue. He rose from one position to another, until, in 1851, he found himself assistant-resident at Amboyna, in the Moluccas. In 1857 he was transferred to Lebak, in the Bantam residency of Java. By this time, however, all the secrets of Dutch administration were known to him, and he had begun to protest against the abuses of the colonial system. In consequence he was threatened with dismissal from his office for his openness of speech. Thereupon quitting his appointment, Dekker returned to Holland in a state of fierce indignation.

He 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, under the pseudonym of Multatuli, his novel Max Havelaar. Dekker's new pseudonym, which is derived from Latin, means, "I have suffered much", or, more literally "I have suffered greatly" referring to himself, as well as, it is thought, to the victims of the inustices he saw. An attempt was made to ignore this irregular (for the 1860s) book, but in vain; it was read all over Europe. The exposure of the abuse of free labor in the Dutch Indies was thorough, although colonialist apologists accused Dekker's terrible picture of being overdrawn. 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 criticized, he received an unexpected and most valuable ally in Carel Vosmaer. 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.

Douwes left Holland, and went to live at Wiesbaden, 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. Douwes Dekker moved his residence to Nieder Ingelheim, on the Rhine, where he died in 1887.

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In Finnish, the word "multatuli" literally means "earth fire", but can also be heard as "multa tuli", a slang expression for "I ejaculated".de:Eduard Douwes Dekker eo:Eduard DOUWES DEKKER ko:물타툴리 id:Multatuli nl:Eduard Douwes Dekker ro:Multatuli fi:Multatuli

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