Pas Pleurer – Prix Goncourt 2014


  • Author:  Lydie Salvayre
  • Genre: Novel
  • Title:  Pas Pleurer
  • Published:  2014
  • Table of Contents:  3 parts, 278 pages  ( part 3 is just 5 pages… epilogue)
  • Published by  Edition de Seuil
  • Setting: Spain
  • Timeline: 1936 – 1939  Spanish Civil War
  • Themes:  social uprising; memories


  • Salvayre is the narrator.
  • She describes the Spanish Civil War in flashbacks (mother’s memories).
  • We see the uprisng from the point of view of the people.
  • The  story runs parallel with G. Bernanos’s  ‘Grands Cimetières sous la Lune’.
  • In this essay (1938) Georges Bernanos exposes his disillusionment with the Franco cause.
  • We see the uprising  from the point of view of G. Bernanos.
  • He exposed the role of  “L’ Eglise” during the revolution.
  • The church was blind to the  terror and murder that occurred.


  • Salvayre  found  ‘Pas pleurer’  in a letter by Marina Tsvetaeva, a famous Russian poet.
  • The author said these two words represented  her mother’s moral compass.
  • Don’t cry, don’t be a victim when you are face to face with a difficult situation.
  • Her mother had to learn a new language, in a new culture with new customs. (pg 277)
  • “..apprendre  une nouvelle langue et de nouvelles façons de vivre et de se comporter,
  • pas pleurer”


  • Doña Pura – spinster, sister of Don Jaime – obsessed with religion
  • Don Jaime – dignified Spanish bourgeois
  • Dona Sol – Jaime’s wife
  • José – young, revolutionary – author’s uncle
  • Diego – rebellious son of Don Jaime – marries Montse – author’s father
  • Montserrat Monclus Arjona  (Montse) – author’s  mother


  • Strong point: Frangol - realistic approach to build the character Montse.
  • Frangol is the hybrid language of  Montse who has never mastered French.
  • The reader is  standing in the middle of the  mother-daughter  conversations.
  • Weak point: story  was at times difficult  to folllow…French, Frangol and Spanish!
  • Text is full of French/Spanish swear words and slang.
  • French vocabulary at a new level…#langueDesPaysans
  • le morveux  ( snot nose)
  • le zigue  (daddy-o)
  • le connard ( jerk)
  • Spanish….Ma cago en Dios – ‘holy shit’


  1. Anaphora – starting each sentence with the same phrase
  2. This gives the text a rhythmic, poetic flow.
  3. There are many examples of ‘repetition of groups of words’.
  4. Pg 36 –  On s’ est demandé – repeated 7 x
  5. Pg 58: Salvayre describes a crowd on the first day of the revolution.
  6. 13 repetitions in 7 sentences!
  • grabs the flags- on accroche des drapeaux
  • is excited – on s’ enfière
  • cries – on crie
  • makes gestures – on gesticule
  • revels in slogans – on se gargarise de slogans
  • is amazed  – on s’ epoustoufle
  • flings oneself  on – on se jette sur
  • drinks in the phrases – on s’ abreuve de phrases
  • is calm – on se calm
  • meditates – on médite
  • comes back – on revient
  • is seized by – on s’ est emparée
  • regains self-control – on se ressaisit


  • Weak point: repetitions are used so often …it felt like a gimmick.
  • Strong point: combination of Montse’s memoires  with Bernanos’s critical essay.
  • Strong point: varied French vocabulary.
  • I learned many new words.
  • Last thoughts:
  • Two voices:  mother (Montse) and daughter (Salvayre)
  • Two languages:  Frangol and French
  • Two visions:  Montse – Bernanos
  • The book’s key element  is the ‘hybride language’ that  enriches the text.
  • I had difficulty appreciating this clever writing style.
  • French is not my first language….and I missed the subtleties in the Frangol.
  • Prix Goncourt  2014:   Pas Pleurer
  • Jury report:  “the best and most imaginative prose work of the year”.
  • This book has a strong political message embedded in a ‘coming of age’ story.
  • Personally,  I preferred  the ‘runner up’ for this literary prize:
  • Charlotte by D. Foenkinos. 
  • It also had a  political message, but written in a poetic style that appealed to me.
  • Charlotte touched my heart.
  • Pas Pleurer left me empty.

Score: 2



Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


Red Badge of Courage

9780141327525  badge

  • Author:  Stephen Crane  (1871 – 1900)
  • Genre: Novel   
  • Title:  The Red Badge of Courage
  • Published:  1895
  • Table of Contents: 
  • Book: Published by  Vintage Classic Books
  • Setting: battles in the  Civil War
  • Theme: coward vs hero
  • Trivia:  Stephen Crane had NO wartime experience and wrote the book in 10 days!


  • Henry Fleming dreams of the thrill of battle and performing heroic deeds in the American Civil War.
  • But his illusions are shattered when he comes face to face with the bloodshed and horrors of war.
  • Henry experiences both fear and self-doubt.
  • He is anxious to confirm his patriotism and manhood – to earn his ‘badge of courage.’
  • In his first encounter with  war he  flees.
  • Henry Fleming is finally driven by anger and confusion to a true act of courage.


  • Crane  chose to call his book “The Red Badge of Courage”. 
  • This symbolizes  the wound he wanted to prove that he was a brave man in battle.
  • It is considered an honor to be wounded…
  • bloody, upper body where a real badge might be worn.
  • See “irony’ for more information about the title.

Point of View:

  • Limited third person narrator  relates only what is going on in Henry Fleming’s mind.
  • This is a limited view of  the camp, marches and the battles.
  • This leaves the reader  with the question ….is young Henry Fleming…an unreliable narrator?

Character: Henry Fleming

  • FEAR: Henry is a proud, naive, inexperienced youth.
  • He is eager to feel the ‘Greek-like’ glory of battle.
  • Henry  is tortured by his fear that he might ‘ run like a rabbit’  during an attack.
  • He does…run like a rabbit.
  • COWARDICE: Henry staggers back to his regiment .
  • He learns that no one has noticed his cowardice.
  • Henry is still immature even though he regards himself as a veteran.
  • He is fighting uncontrollably…..shooting at nothing.
  • “They (comrades)  looked upon him as a war devil (pg 101).
  • BRAVERY: Finally Henry is in the middle of battle, fights and commits heroic deeds.
  • Henry is not boastful….only happy he made it so far without being killed.


  • Crane describes  how the soldiers react to their camp and battlefield.
  • After some  research I found an example of figurative writing….that I would have missed!
  • Reference: “Stephen Crane” by Harold Bloom (2007)
  • The battlefield is hidden under a layer of  “city metaphors’!
  • approaching army = train (pg 28)
  • soldiers = mobs and crowds (pg 114)
  • army officers = political bosses who flatter the masses (pg 117)
  • ‘the battle’ = machine that produces corpses (pg 52)

Images: (pg 25, 42 and 49)

  • War: The regiment is  sometimes as a person, a monster, a reptile or machine of steel.
  • Crane describes the enemy as ‘redoubtable dragons’ of a ‘red and green monster’.
  • The impression is of a battle between monsters  and….not human beings.
  • Nature: forest = cathedral with aisles; arching boughs  =  chapel with religious light.


  • The red badge of courage….is  not really a badge of courage.
  • Irony:  Henry received  the “red badge” the wound  NOT  in combat,
  • …but in a brawl with one of his own comrades.
  • He gave Henry a blow over his head with the rifle.
  • The wound is not a badge of courage…..
  • …..but a badge of shame.
  • Henry flees in battle and abandons his comrades.
  • Irony: Henry is not ashamed of  his cowardice…..
  • He only fears that someone will discover what he did!
  • A ‘certain soldier’ returns to camp with information he heard…
  • ‘from a reliable friend‘, via a ‘trustful cavalryman’, a ‘trustworthy brother’ .
  • Irony:  This ‘reliable information is really  …4th hand information!
  • Not reliable at all!

Emile Zola vs Stephen Crane:  (see below)

  • I am convinced that Stephen Crane read…and was inspired by Emile Zola !
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Red Badge of Courage…
  • bear an uncanny resemblance to Nana and Le Debacle!
  • Page 49 (Le Debacle) and page 21( Red Badge of Courage)
  • = soldiers grumble and toss duffel bags and weapons on the ground!  Exactly the same….


  • Crane describes a boy who takes time to …
  • reflect‘  ‘wonder about himself’ ‘ attempts to ‘probe his sensations’ ( pg 24).
  • This is the reason Red Badge of Courage is on every middle-school reading list.
  • The reader is propelled into the head of Henry Fleming.
  • Especially young readers can feel Henry’s emotional situations and moral dilemma’s.
  • Weak point: Having read Le Debacle….many parts of the plot felt like…
  • ‘ Deja Vu’. Zola had written his book 3 years earlier.
  • Strong point: very vivid imagery ( color, sounds, smells).
  • Crane excels giving the reader images of war, the beauty of nature and an ominous mood.
  • In this respect I enjoyed Red Badge of Courage more than Le Debacle.
  • Last thoughts:  This classic should be on everyone’s  reading list!

Score: 4

Stephen Crane Biography

  • Maggie (1893)
  • Maggie is the story of a pretty child of the Bowery. Maggie “blossomed in a mud puddle”, was seduced by Pete and is seen as effectively ruined. She is implied to have become a prostitute at the end of the novel and dies an early death
  • Nana: (1880)
  • In Nana, the characters are a prostitute, who rises from the streets to become what Zola calls a “high-class cocotte,” and the men—and women—whom she loves, betrays, and destroys. Nana is ” a stupid, vain but beautiful creature who can’t help drawing people into her web. At the end of the novel she dies an early death
  • Le Debacle: (1892)
  • Zola tells the story of grim and terrible of a struggle  in the Battle of Sedan  to the death between two great nations. Maurice is young, innocent and desires to be a “good soldier”. He is naïve and is eager to experience the “glory” of war. “The cloud of thick, black smoke, rising slowly in the evening air, added to the general cheerlessness of the scene.
  • Red badge of courage (1895)
  • Stephen Crane’s classic Civil War novel of a young man named Henry Fleming and his struggle with the desire to be a “good soldier” and the dreadful thought that he might be a coward. Henry begins his military service as a naïve young man eager to experience the “glory” of war.  “…smoke clouds went slowly and insolently across the fields like observant phantoms.

Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Uncategorized




  • Author:  Patrick Flanery
  • Genre: novel ( mystery)
  • Title: Absolution
  • Published: 2012
  • Table of contents:  Part 1 – Part 2,  420 pages
  • Published  by: Riverhead Books
  • Setting: Cape Town South Africa


  • This is the excavation of family secrets.
  • Two writers,Clare and Sam, obsessively revisit the past in their attempts to make sense of it.
  • Flanery does not concentrate on racism
  • He focuses on the criss-crossing of complex lives of a few  white South Africans.
  • Writing style: multiple points of view, time shifts of memory, unreliable narrator.
  • These literary techniques do not guarantee a great book.
  • I slogged through the best part of 400 pages.
  • I really tried to make sense of a nonsensical idea of truth and memory in this book.
  • I expected more suspense and got open endings.
  • Weak point:  the book rambles on too much about the confusing emotions of  the characters.

Last thoughts:

  • I did not like this ‘ South African’  story.
  • Patrick Flanery is an American from the Midwest
  • He lives in England and has spent only short periods in South Africa.
  • I kept thinking  of Mark Twain’s quote:  “write what you know.”
  • This is Flanery’s  first novel and it has received postive reviews….just not from me

Score 2




Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


The Raven (E. A. Poe)


  • Author:  Edgar Allan Poe
  • Genre: poem
  • Title:  The Raven
  • Published:  (1845)
  • Table of Contents: 18  six-line stanzas  (108 lines)
  • Published by  Penguin Books
  • Theme: remembrance vs forgetting


  • The Raven” is a narrative poem by the American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe.
  • It was published for the first time on January 29, 1845, in the New York Evening Mirror
  • Noted for its musicality, stylized language and supernatural atmosphere,
  • This is one of Poe’s best known and most  reviewed poems.
  • I hope to find something interesting to  mention about this classic!


  • The poem describes the tale of a student, desolated by the death of his beloved,
  • He is visitied on a stormy `bleak December´ night  by an ominous bird´.
  • It  traces the student´s  slow descent into madness.

Strong point:  Alliteration: is the repetition of the initial sounds of adjacent words.

  • While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
  • Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before
  • Followed fast and followed faster….
  • On this home by horror haunted…
  • And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting.

Strong point:  Rhythm

  • Repetition of  words to  give the poem a ‘throbbing’ rhythm….like a heart
  • “rapping, rapping”- tell me, tell me – “still is sitting, still is sitting”

Strong point:  Rhyme

  • The structure of the poem is based on:   A-B-C-B-B-B
  • Every 2nd – 4th lines rhyme –  the  4th – 5th and 6th  lines  rhyme

Line 1: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, A
Line 2: Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore – B
Line 3: While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, C
Line 4: As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door – B
Line 5:”‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door – B
Line 6: Only this and nothing more.” B

Strong point: meter  with surprises!

  • In this poem Poe has  used  ‘meter’  in 3 different ways:
  • lines 1st – 3rd lines   of evey stanza have  16 syllables
  • lines 2nd – 4th – 5th  of every stanza have 15 syllables
  • line 6 of every stanza has only  7 syllables

Symbol:  The Raven

  • There are some ‘very subtle’ hidden meanings in the poem about the raven.
  • Finding these words is the most difficult part of reading poetry.
  • Line 38-40: The Raven enters the room.  He is ‘stately’ and has a ‘mien of lord or lady’  – this suggests an image of a king.
  • Line 45: The Raven is not ‘craven’ ( cowardly).
  • The allusion to ‘crest be shorn and shaven’ refers to  medieval tradition of head shaving of a coward.
  • Line 48: The Raven ‘quoth the Raven, Nevermore’ -
  • The student ‘marvelled’ (line 49) to hear the bird speak.
  • After 10 x repetitions of this utterance the narrator  slides into a maddend, frenzied state.
  • Line 85: The narrator call the raven a ‘prophet’ believing he foretells the future.
  • Line 105 – 108: Final image of the bird is a ‘demon that is dreaming’
  • casting a ‘shadow that lies floating on the floor’. 
  • Narrator is terrified
  • Symbol:  bust of Pallas (line 42 and 105): -
  • symbol of wisdom meant to imply the narrator is a student
  • Symbol: Night’s Plutonian shore (line 48 and 98) -
  • allusion to the Roman god of the underworld
  • Symbol: nepenthe ( line 83-84)
  • allusion to a mythological drug that you might take to forget your grief and sadness.
  • Symbol: chamber door is repeated 11x
  • This refers to room and the chamber of the heart ( feelings)


  • This is a poem for people who don’t like poetry!
  • It is one of my favorites and was FUN  to ready and analyse.
  • The student “shrieked’ ‘take thy beak from out of my heart’.
  • But the bird ‘still is sitting, still is sitting’.
  • The beak keeps pecking at the heart repeating ‘Nevermore’
  • Theme:  those we have loved and who become lost to us…
  • …can never be forgotten.
  • It may be painful to remember them….but it is  more painful to give them up.
  • Last thoughts: Depressing stories can be uplifting.
  • It all depends on the writing skills…
  • Edgar Allan Poe is a master of words and chilling images.

Score 5



Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tess of d’ Urbervilles

Jules Breton - Girl Guarding the Cows

  • Author:   Thomas Hardy
  • Genre:   novel
  • Title:      Tess of d’ Urbervilles
  • Published: 1891
  • Table of Contents:  7 parts, 472 pages
  • Book: Published by  Collins Classics
  • Setting:  Wessex, England
  • Themes:  loss of innocence and virtue

Structure:  7 stages that Tess progresses through:

  1. The maiden
  2. The maiden no more
  3. The rally
  4. The consequence
  5. The woman pays
  6. The convert
  7. Fulfilment


  • Tess of d’ Urbervilles is a classic tragedy.
  • Hardy uses Tess’s tragic life to address the ideals of Victorian society.
  • Tess is the main character representing all that is pure and virtuous.
  • Her tragic flaw is lack of experience,  her naiveté.
  • This girl sees that her situation is irreversibly changed after rape by  Alec d’ Urbervilles.


  • Thomas Hardy wrote this book to shock Victorian society.
  • He wanted expose the dubble moral standard that existed.
  • Men’s casual sexual encounters mean one thing, and for women an other.
  • Tess cannot escape this male dominated code.
  • She faces a state of ruin because she was raped.
  • Hardy wanted show that a person is not  ruined by the loss of her virginity.
  • She is ruined by SOCIETY that  sees this loss  as a loss of virtue.
  • Virtue is not a physical state that can be lost.
  • Virtue is  a practice that develops over time.


  • Not subtlety…but  very  obvious with quotation marks.: “Justice” was done ( pg 472)


  • There were a few good examples but not  the quality I found in Nostromo by Joseph Conrad.
  • “..brim (hat) encircled it (head) like the nimbus of a saint.” ( pg 72)
  • “cheeks that were damp and smoothly chill as the skin of the mushrooms in the fields around.” (pg 94)


  • Hardy states a clear meaning with symbols but Joseph Conrad in Nostromo implies.
  • Cock crows three times as Tess and Clare Angel leave her parents home as man and wife. (downfall begins)
  • Cock crows three times … beginning of Christ’s  Passion.


  • The book is a classic but that does not make it a great book.
  • Weak point: Hardy’s writing style is average.
  • Weak point: Hardy fails to let  the reader visualize the scene described.
  • Hardy’s writing  does not have the beauty or mystery of Zola or Conrad.
  • Hardy  uses sensual allusions to describe  the seduction of Tess.
  • It was so subtle  I almost missed it!
  • Zola on the other hand describes a rape scene  as it was ‘naturalism’..
  • There is a  brutal, rough, appalling, humiliating scene in  L’Argent  when Alice is violated.
  • Last thoughts:  This was my second Thomas Hardy book… is now definitely my last.
  • I must add that you should read  Hardy and decide for yourself.….if you are a true fan.

Score: 2

Challenge: Back to the Classicspublished 1800-1899

Classic Book List  nr 2



Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized



Author: James Joyce
Genre: Short stories
Title: Dubliners
Published: 1914
Table of Contents:    15 short stories,  315 pages
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics.
Setting:  Dublin
Themes: spiritual paralysis; the Irish were crippled by their faith, ambition and love.


  • The 15 short stories in Dubliners are considered to be some of the best stories in English literature.
  • Joyce insisted that it was not a collection of stories but a unified work of art and should be read as such.
  • The setting is Dublin because Joyce considered this the ‘center of paralysis’.
  • I wanted to discover the moment of ‘epiphany’  that the main character experiences.
  • These stories have been reviewed countless times.
  • I hope to add some information I found interesting.


  • These stories are divided into 3 sections:
  • Childhood – The Sisters, An Encounter and Araby
  • Adolescence: Eveline, After the Race, Two Gallants and The Boarding house
  • Adulthood: Little Cloud, Counterparts, Clay,  A  Painful Case, Ivy Day, A Mother and Grace
  • The Dead is the longest story and takes a special place in this series.


  1. The main character is the city of Dublin.
  2. Joyce ties all the stories to this common setting.
  3. Dublin is small and  the characters walk around the city (exception: Araby).
  4. The settings are in different parts of the city.
  5. They describe the everyday lives of the people in Dublin.
  • Irishtown (poor area – The Sisters),
  • North Richmond Street (opressive dead end street – Araby),
  • Ringsend (working class district – An Encounter)


  • In ‘Araby’ Joyce describes  North Richmond Street as a depressing cul-de-sac.
  • One would feel uncomfortable or even endangered there.
  • Irony:  the people on this dead end street are pious and perfectly happy to live there.


  • These stories are all about characters  termed   Dubliners.
  • Irony: Many characters feel no connection to the town or their neighbors.
  • In ‘Clay’ Marie is isolated from other children. Her playmates  bully her and she has no real friends.
  • Joyce wanted to emphasize that Dublin is made up of several parts with rivalries and jealousy.
  • Each section had its own identity and pub around which communal life was centered.
  • “Where do you drink?”  Your answer gave  a shorthand version of your person.


  • A priest (deceased) should have been sensitive to the spiritual needs of his people.
  • Irony:  he devoted his life to collecting ‘furniture‘ and ‘money’. (Araby)

Connect the dots:

  • Parents who influence their children’s life changing decision:
  • Eveline in Eveline – Jimmy in After the Race - Polly in The Boarding House
  • Married men who beat their children:
  • Mr. Hill in Eveline – Old Jack of Ivy Day –  Farrington of  Counterparts


  • Many objects in the stories can be connected to a character:
  • Glass of wine is a turning point for Jack.
  • He toasts the death of his mentor Fr. Flynn (The Sisters)
  • Comic books boys yearning for adventure but when they met “old Josser”
  • =  rude loss of innocence (An Encounter)
  • Florin (coin) for the little boy to enter Araby (poetic for Arabia) bazaar.
  • It is the wealth he needed to win the heart of his love. (Araby)
  • Priests are found in many stories.
  • They represent for Joyce the ultimate symbol for ‘spiritual paralysis’.
  • The priest represents Catholicism that had a strangling effect of the lives of the Irish.
  • Color print hanging on the wall  of the promises to Bl Margaret Mary Alacoque.
  • This reflects the promise  Eveline made to her dying mother.
  • Her duty is to keep family together. (Eveline)


  • Ellipsis  is used in narratives to omit some parts of a sentence .
  • The reader must  fill in the gaps.
  • Joyce uses the ellipsis  in 11 of his stories.
  • The ellipsis indicates words or thoughts that remain unsaid.
  • The ellipsis merely hints at something more disturbing or sinister.
  • In The Sisters one is not sure what  the relationship is between young Jack an Father Flynn.
  • Joyce cast doubts but gives no outright accusations.
  • The reader must decide for himself.

Why are these short stories such a challenge to read?

  • In each story you can read statements, situations  that have a ‘ upper level’  meaning.
  • But the challenge is to discover the ‘ deeper level’  meaning.
  • Here are a few examples that I  found:

The Sisters:

  • Upper level: Nannie serves wine  and crackers  to the guests.
  • Jack sips his glass of wine  after listening to Father Flynn’s sister explain his mental torment because of the duties of a priest. “”…you might say, crossed.”
  • Deeper level: crackers and wine indicate an ‘ Eucharistic moment”  of transubstantiation…..also in Jack.


  • Upper level:  story about a  little boy’s first love
  • Deeper level: story about his world which is hostile to his dreams

After the Race:

  • Upper level: ” the mask of a capital”  Dublin is a provincial capital.
  • It wields no actual power over Ireland since 1801.
  • Deeper level: Dublin wears a mask of a great city where there is much wrong.
  • An affluent show of money does not change the poverty and unhappiness behind the mask.

Little Cloud:

  • Upper level: Chandler ‘ …courted the causes of fear. He chose the darkest and narrowest streets as he walked boldly”
  • Chandler was 24 yr when Gallahar left Ireland.
  • Chandler and Annie have an infant son.
  • They never refer to the baby by its name.
  • Deeper level:  Joyce often built major characters on more than one person, usually himself and one other.
  • Joyce also had a habit  of roaming the ‘ shady, dark, narrow’ streets of Dublin at night.
  • Joyce was 24 yr when he wrote Little Cloud.
  • Joyce’s son was 6 months old when he wrote this story.
  • The baby remained nameless for two months before Joyce and Nora could decide on a name.


  • I have just mentioned a few items about  Dubliners.
  • One could write 15 reviews…one about each story.
  • Strong point: personal strategy
  • I read  ALL the notes before reading  each story.
  • The Gallants:  just 6 pages but there are 70 notes!
  • Weak point: After the Race  ( frustrated rich boy) and A Mother were disappointing.
  • Don’t judge the book by these stories….
  • The rest of the selections are magnificent.
  • I would highly recommend Dubliners.
  • Last thoughts:
  • Mea culpa, mea culpa mea maxima culpa
  • ….for not appreciating James Joyce’s  genius sooner.

Twitter thoughts:

  • #Dublin You could write 3 reviews (symbols, POV, quest for a talisman…)
  • about just a small story called ‘Araby’.
  • #JamesJoyce builds a world of a small boy with smells, sounds, buildings
  • ‘feelble street lamps’ (light) and a dead end street in Dublin.
  • #OdourOfDustyCretonne James Joyce touched the soul…
  • while Thomas Mann  just scratched the surface.
  • #NeedCoffee to shake off ‘Eveline” ‘s sadness, her need to escape.

Score 5 +++

Classic Book List nr 2



Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Max Havelaar (Dutch Classic)

Max Havelaar

Author: Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) (1820 – 1887)
Genre: novel (satire)
Title: Max Havelaar ( Language: Dutch)
Published: 1860
Table of Contents: 20 chapters, 315
Publisher: NRC Boeken
Timeline: 1842 ( Sumatra). 1856 (Lebak) 1860 (Amsterdam)
Setting: Dutch East Indies
Trivia: E. Douwes Dekker was one of Sigmund Freud’s favorite writers.


  • Eduard Douwes Dekker is better known by his pen name Multatuli.
  • It is from latin ‘multa tuli’ meaning I have suffered much.
  • This is a satire denouncing  the abuses of  colonialism in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).
  • 1838 Douwes Dekker became a civil servant in Java.
  • All the secrets of Dutch administration were known to him.
  • Disgusted with the actions of the Dutch in Java, he had begun to about the abuses.
  • Threatened with dismissal from his office for his openness of speech.
  • Dekker resigned his appointment.
  • He returned to the Netherlands and wrote this scathing criticism of Dutch colonialism.
  • In 2002 the Society of Dutch Literature proclaimed Multatuli the most important Dutch writer of all time


  • This is a  grim depiction of life in a European colony, namely Indonesia.
  • The description of web of hypocrisy of church-going Dutch.
  • …and the repression of the natives under their rule endure.
  • The Dutch derived benefits from others misery.
  • Max Havelaar was  beacon of hope.
  • He was in a position of unquestionable power, Assistant-Resident.
  • Havelaar struggled with the colonial government  leaders ….to no avail.

Theme:  exploitation;  colonialism

TitleDubbel  title “Max Havelaar or Coffee Auctions Dutch Trade Company”

  • I had to research this information… would never have caught my eye!
  • Irony: the title tells  Mr. Droogstoppel that this book contains
  • …information that  he would be interested in: coffee auctions.
  • He agrees to  finance the  rewritintg of a final draft and publicaton of the book
  • But it appears that there is nothing in the book about coffee or the Dutch Trade Company!
  • The author  misled Droogstoppel  and the reading public!
  • In 1860 coffee and trade were in the news.
  • Multatuli wanted to have his book read. (pg 57) “Mijn boek moet de wereld in!”
  • He was probably the  first Dutch “whistleblower” !
  • He used this  ‘clever piece of irony’ to capture the public’s  interest.
  • Multatuli  TRICKED  the readers with a dubbel title.
  • He. lured them to buy the book and revealed the abuses he thought must be made public.

Narrators:  3 characters

  • Droogstoppel:  coffee broker at Last & Co.
  • Stern:  assistant Last & Co.  ( = author  Multatuli)
  • Sjaalman: is the character of Max Havelaar incognito in Amsterdam.

Structure: frame  story (stories-within-stories)

  1. Story:  Commentary in journals of Max Havelaar which reveal the exploitation in the Dutch East Indies.
  2. Story:  Havelaar returns to Amsterdam with his exposé in rough draft and wants it to be published.
  3. Story: In the last chapter:
  • Multatuli, the author himself,  takes over the narrative.
  • Droogstoppel is written ‘out of the book’.
  • Multatuli writes what he wants to achieve.
  • He wants the readers to share his outrage.

Breaking the 4th wall

  • Multatuli speaks directly to the reader and ‘confronts’ him.
  • Speaking to the reader acknowledges that this is a book or a story.

Unreliable narrator

  • Mr. Droogstoppel  coffee broker  is characterized by exaggeration and bragging.
  • Multatuli satirizes the coffee merchant by simply letting him speak!


  • The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning.
  • Droogstoppel tells the reader ( pg 18)  that the Dutch are successful because:
  • …they  conduct business honorably and maintain exemplary Christian beliefs.
  • Irony: Mutatuli reveals that the Dutch say one thing in public and act differently in business!
  • Droogstoppel gossips about other business partner’s family. (pg 25)
  • Irony: But reminds us that he  would never knowingly slander anybody!


  • There are some great examples of humor in Multatuli’s writing:
  • The repetition in Droogstoppel’s  emphatic dialogue reminding the reader that he always speaks the truth
  • ” heus de zuivere waarheid” (pg 24)  and
  • conducts himself at all times with civility
  • fatsoen gaat voor mijn boven alles” ( pg 31).
  • In a bouncing carriage over a hobbley road  Multatuli brings the choppy conversation
  • before our eyes with one-word sentences.  You can just hear it!
  • I. Did. Not. Dare.To. Agree.
  • ” Ik. Durfde. Het. Haar. Niet. Toezeggen.” ! (pg 101)


  • Weak point: This book was complicated with an intricate narrative structure:
  • no chronological order, many flashbacks and 3 narrators.
  • Weak point: Many pages of ‘old-fashioned’ dialogue which  makes the reading difficult.
  • Strong point: The shock effect caused by the author  in chapter 20.
  • This was his pulpit. It would be his  chance to send a message to the Dutch and the world.
  • Multatuli refers to the barbaric division in American society on pg 103.
  • He must have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852, H.B. Stowe) that exposed the abuse in USA.
  • Multatuli shares Stowe’s social realism in his writing of Max Havelaar.
  • I could relate to this book because of my knowledge of the ‘Dutch mentality’.
  • I doubt  if this book would appeal to a wider audience outside The Netherlands.
  • I liked the book but a recommendation to read it …..that’s a hard call.
  • Last thoughts:  Dutch is the 7th most spoken language in Europe..
  • The study of foreign languages is simply the gift that keeps on giving.

Score: 3

Challenge: Back to the Classicssatire

Classic Book List  nr 2


Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers

%d bloggers like this: