This year is precisely the 150th anniversary of Multatuliâ€™s (Eduard Douwes Dekker) book entitled Max Havelaar since its first publication in 1860. The book about cultuurstelsel system imposed by the Dutch colonial government in Lebak, Banten, became the most important book in Dutch literary history, even a compulsory reading in Dutch schools.
Professor Marita Mathijsen, a lecturer of Amsterdam University mentioned that Max Havelaar is a unique work that can exist in literary world today. There were many novels written in the 19th century, but mostly have been forgotten. â€œThere is no novel but Max Havelaar that really influences Dutch social opinion,â€ she said during the celebration of 150th Anniversary on Monday (12/4) at Poerbatjaraka Building, Faculty of Cultural Sciences of UGM.
According to the lady studying the 19th-century Dutch literature, Max Havelaar is an innovative novel in its narrative structure with the plot that surprised Dutch literature readers at that time, who were still bound by old language structure. Multatuli inserted a non-Dutch poem in his text. Besides, the man who once worked as Assistant Resident of Dutch colonial government cited literary works to deliver his opinion about particular problems. That citation, she continued, was retained in its native language, contributing language diversity to that novel.
Multatuliâ€™s skill in narrating the story, combinining Malayan and English Indies literature in one story, gives literary colors to this novel. â€œMax Havelaar is unique both in terms of ethics and aesthetics that are suitable with worldâ€™s literature at present,â€ she explained.