Multatuli

Full of history, the house was built around 1790 and is a national monument. In the 1820s it was home to the young Multatuli, Holland’s most famous author. You can visit the museum dedicated to him a few streets away in the house of his birth and the large statue of him on the Torensluis bridge on the Singel canal.

Multatuli is the pseudonym (from Latin multa tuli, “I have suffered much”) of Eduard Douwes Dekker (1820-1887). He was a Dutch writer famous for his satirical novel,
Max Havelaar (1860) in which he denounced the abuses of colonialism in the colony of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).

He was born nearby at Korsjespoortsteeg 20 (now the Multatuli Museum, open on Tuesdays and Saturdays) and moved to the house on Binnen Brouwerstraat (now the Multatuli Apartment) at the age of 3 where he lived for a few years before moving to the Haarlemmerstraat. In 1838 he went to Java and obtained a post as a civil servant. After 18 years of civil service in the Dutch East Indies, he returned to Europe in 1856 a disillusioned man. The way the natives were treated by their own as well as by the Dutch rulers offended him so much that he resigned after a public conflict. In his novel Max Havelaar he recorded his experiences. The book was published in 1860 and made him an instant success. Encouraged by this public acclaim, he decided to pursue a career as a writer. He became a sort of national conscience, inspiring emancipatory movements such as freethinkers, socialists and anarchists. Multatuli’s career as a writer lasted exactly as long as his career as an official: 18 years. Then in 1877, once more profoundly disillusioned, he decided to give up writing and took refuge in Germany, where he died in February 1887.

‘Max Havelaar’ is now used as the independent Fairtrade label to denote products produced and traded under fair conditions. Since the introduction of the Max Havelaar label in 1988, this Dutch initiative been copied in more than twenty countries. The label can now be found on more than 1700 products such as tea, chocolate, wine, sugar, rice, all kinds of fruit, cotton and even ice cream.

On the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Multatuli’s death, Queen Beatrix unveiled a statue of Multatuli on the Torensluis bridge on the Singel canal in Amsterdam.

In June 2002, the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society for Dutch Literature) proclaimed Multatuli the most important Dutch writer of all time.