15 March, 2013

Max Havelaar by Multatuli (1860)

I almost gave up on this one halfway through, but I'm glad I didn't. Max Havelaar tells the story of a minor Dutch official in colonial Java who becomes outraged at the way the local people are being exploited. It's somewhat autobiographical and while the book shocked Holland and eventually led to reforms, the author suffered the usual whistleblower's fate and died in exile, embittered. As a novel, Max Havelaar is often self-indulgent and you never quite know where it is heading, but it is redeemed by the strength of its message and prose that is passionate, surprisingly fresh, sometimes beautiful and often very funny.

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