‘I am not a Writer’: Self-Reflexivity and Politics in Multatuli’s Max Havelaar


  • Saskia Pieterse


Multatuli, Max Havelaar, Dutch Colonial History, Postcolonial Studies, Polities and literature, Self-Reflexivity


The Dutch author Multatuli is mostly famous for his subversive and critical prose. In his debut-novel Max Havelaar (1860) he attacked the impassive, bureaucratic manner in which the Dutch government dealt with the maltreatment of the Javanese people. In the last two centuries, Multatuli's work has provoked a wide variety of, often contradictory, interpretations. A recurring question in Multatuli-studies is: if Multatuli wanted to make such strong and ambiguous political statements, why did he use such an intricate literary form? In this article, Pieterse formulates a new answer to this question, by looking at the specific relationship between literary self-reflexivity in Max Havelaar, and the substance of his political position.

Author Biography

Saskia Pieterse

Saskia Pieterse is a postdoctoral researcher, currently working in the field of economic criticism. She studied Dutch Studies at Utrecht University and obtained her PhD at the University of Amsterdam in September 2008 with a thesis on Multatuli's Ideën, published as De buik van de lezer. Over spreken en schrijven in Multatuli's Ideën (Nijmegen 2008). Her current research project is called "Economic Tropes, National Identity and the Dutch Novel", for which she received a NOW grant in 2010.




How to Cite

Pieterse, S. (2010). ‘I am not a Writer’: Self-Reflexivity and Politics in Multatuli’s Max Havelaar. Journal of Dutch Literature, 1(1). Retrieved from https://journalofdutchliterature.org/index.php/jdl/article/view/8