Multatuli fans make a hand written copy of Max Havelaar

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is celebrating author Multatuli’s jubilee year with a national project on a new, experimental edition of his novel ‘Max Havelaar’: a handwritten lockdown edition that is open to everyone.

06/15/2020 | 11:31 AM

Multatuli_tentoonstelling_Portret_MulatuliThe aim of this project is to express that Multituli’s (pen name for novelist Eduard Douwes Dekker) ideas about humanity, equality and intractability are widely shared in a time when this is still very much needed. Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam, and journalist Elsbeth Etty are among the Dutch celebrities taking part and who will be copying the first chapters from home. The writing project is an initiative of Jacqueline Bel, professor of Modern Dutch Literature at the Vrije Universiteit in cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Library. The project commences on Monday, June 15. The first handwritten edition of Max Havelaar will be published around 1 October.

Alfred Birney, Maxim Februari, Arnon Grunberg, Adriaan van Dis, Ernst Jansz, Dieuwertje Blok, Winnie Sorgdrager and many other retired and active politicians, journalists, presenters and scientists will also be taking part. The Max Havelaar lockdown edition will be added to the Vrije Universiteit’s collection in the university library and will be made digitally available to anyone interested. The project will also consist of screenings of short films that participants can make of their writing efforts and a collection of participant’s articles on their connection to ‘Max Havelaar’.

Multatuli_tentoonstelling_coverMaxHavelaarThe power of text
Jacqueline Bel, professor of Modern Dutch Literature at the Vrije Universiteit: “We would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to everyone to literally become a  co-writer of this ground-breaking book to help express just how much Multatuli’s ideas about justice and humanity have become part of Dutch identity.  By copying chapters by hand, everyone can experience just how penetrating a text can be”. 

Open to everyone
The Vrije Universiteit is looking for at least 200 participants. All participants will be asked to spend about half an hour copying. If you are interested in participating, send an email to, after which you will receive a pdf file containing the text to be copied and a short instruction. Participants will also be given the opportunity to concisely describe what the novel means to them, they can also provide a photo or video that reflects their writing process.

Update: we have received a lot of responses. That is fantastic news. Unfortunately, this also means that not everyone who signs up can be part of the Lockdown edition. We have now found a writer for all parts of the text.


Watch the video Multatuli: rebel at the foundation of modern Dutch Literature, in which Jacqueline Bel, professor of Modern Dutch Literature at the Vrije Universiteit explains the contribution that Multatuli made to Dutch literature and how the writer, as a critical spirit, fought against social injustice.