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Portrait of Eduard Douwes Dekker
Signature Eduard Douwes Dekker.JPG
Multatuli Museum in the poet's birth house in Amsterdam, Korsjespoortsteeg 20
Portrait of Multatulis by Félix Vallotton , in: La Revue blanche , 1896

Eduard Douwes Dekker (born March 2, 1820 in Amsterdam , † February 19, 1887 in Ingelheim am Rhein ) was a Dutch writer. He became known under the pseudonym Multatuli (Latin for about: "I endured a lot"). Around 1900 his books were very popular in Germany, but are now largely forgotten there. In the Netherlands, multatuli is part of the canon of schoolbook literature. The Society for Dutch Literary Studies declared his book Max Havelaar the most important work written in Dutch in 2002, and it leads its literary canon .


Eduard Douwes Dekker was born in Amsterdam in 1820 as the son of a captain . After attending a Latin school without success, he completed an apprenticeship as a textile trader and then went to sea with his father. At the age of 18 he came to Java with his father in the colony of the Dutch East Indies and found a job with the colonial administration. In 1846 he married the impoverished Dutch baroness Everdina Huberta van Wijnbergen (Tine), with whom he had two children, son Edu (* 1854) and daughter Nonni (* 1857), and together with her led a life between Europe and Southeast Asia. From 1866 his family did not see him anymore. Tine died in Venice on September 13, 1874.

During his time in Java he began to write newspaper articles and pamphlets against the scandals in the Dutch colonial administration and the abuse of the colonial system, which received little attention. He was only successful with his satirical novella Max Havelaar or the coffee auctions of the Dutch trading company , which he published under the pseudonym Multatuli in 1860. The book became known far beyond the Netherlands. The readers included Sigmund Freud , Hermann Hesse , Thomas and Heinrich Mann . His career as a colonial official (he was made assistant resident of Lebak, Java in 1856) ended when he denounced the corrupt machinations in which the regent Karta Nata Negara was involved. The dismissal from employment at his request motivated Dekker to return to Europe.

His life in Europe was shaped by a number of women’s stories. The circle of women who surrounded him included his niece, a French woman who was ransomed from a brothel , a rebellious pastor's daughter and the Dutch writer Marie Anderson . In 1875, the actress Mina Kruseman ensured the success of his play “Princely School”.

He spent the last twenty years of his life almost exclusively in Germany. From 1870 to 1879 he lived in Wiesbaden . Here he wrote around two-fifths of the works published during his lifetime, including the millions of studies in which he processed his experiences in the casino and describes a supposedly safe method of winning at roulette .

Under the pseudonym Multatuli he published books that deal critically with colonial politics , but also - sometimes very sarcastically in the form of parables - with authority, religion and the church. He published under this pseudonym , because he feared reprisals as a result of his very critical descriptions of the conditions in the Dutch colonies . His best-known work is the novel Max Havelaar or The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company , published in Brussels in 1860 .

In 1881 he bought a villa on the Chaussee from Mainz to Ingelheim, which he shared with his second wife, Maria Hamminck-Schepel (1839–1930), who was twenty years his junior and whom he met in 1862, and his adoptive son Wouter (Eduard (Wouter) Bernhold; 1876–1945). He suffered from asthma and lived there in seclusion for the last few years of his life. Dekker was one of the first Dutch people to be cremated , which was only possible in Gotha, the only German crematorium at the time .

Multatuli funerary monument in Westerveld cemetery.

See also


  • Jacqueline Bel, Rick Honings, Jaap Grave (Eds.): Multatuli nu. Nieuwe perspectieven op Eduard Douwes Dekker en zijn werk. Lost: Hilversum, 2018, ISBN 978-90-8704-709-2
  • Frans Glissenaar: DD Het leven van EFE Douwes Dekker. Lost: Hilversum, 1999, ISBN 90-6550-064-2
  • Dik van der Meulen: Multatuli. Leven in work by Eduard Douwes Dekker. Boom: Amsterdam, 2020, ISBN 978-90-244-3187-8
  • Multatuli, Dik van der Meulen: Multatuli. A zelfportret. Het leven van Eduard Douwes Dekker, door Multatuli verteld. Bakker: Amsterdam, 2010, ISBN 978-90-351-3436-2 (autobiography)

Web links

Wikisource: Eduard Douwes Dekker  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Multatuli  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Johanna Bundschuh-van Duikeren, Lut Missinne, Jan Konst: Basic course literature from Flanders and the Netherlands I: 12 articles - 12 Additions , p 150
  2. ^ Eva Weissweiler : Wilhelm Busch. The laughing pessimist. A biography . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-462-03930-6 , p. 239
  3. Chisholm, Hugh (1911). "Dekker, Edward Douwes" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th edition). Cambridge University Press. Page 938
  4. ^ Eva Weissweiler : Wilhelm Busch. The laughing pessimist. A biography . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-462-03930-6 , p. 240
  5. The property was later converted into a hotel and is now "Restaurant Multatuli", address: Mainzer Strasse 255, Ingelheim am Rhein. It (still?) Houses a small museum room of the International Multatuli Society Ingelheim .