The colonial muse: The East Indies as an inspiration for the Dutch novel

The most famous Dutch novel of the 19th century is “Max Havelaar” by Multatuli (pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker (1820-1887). It not only became a classic of European literature but also led to reforms in Dutch colonial policy in the East Indies after its publication in 1860. The novel, written in a modernistic collage style, is also a masterpiece among the numerous works of Dutch literature that have been inspired by the enigmatic, ancient tropical world of the Dutch Asian colony.

In this edition of our weekly arts magazine, Mirror Images, we look at some of the masterpieces of the East Indies genre — Louis Couperus’s “The Hidden Force” (1900) and Maria Dermoût’s “The Ten Thousand Things” (1955) — and we speak with contemporary writers Rudy Kousbroek (1929-2010), the “grande dame” of Dutch literature and a master of the historical novel Hella Haasse (1918-2011), Marion Bloem and Graa Boomsma.

Producer: Marijke van der Meer

Presenter: David Swatling

Broadcast: August 15, 1995

Some of the music in the programme is from the album Sabilulungan by the Suara Parhiangan Group, Suara Parahiangan Records, SPCD 001