Life Under the Palms

ebook The Sublime World of the Anti-colonialist Jacob Haafner

By Paul van der Velde

cover image of Life Under the Palms

Sign up to save your library

With an OverDrive account, you can save your favorite libraries for at-a-glance information about availability. Find out more about OverDrive accounts.

   Not today

Find this title in Libby, the library reading app by OverDrive.

app-store-button-en.svg play-store-badge-en.svg

Search for a digital library with this title

Title found at these libraries:


Jacob Gotfried Haafner (1754–1809) was a writer of great talent, and an early dissenting voice from within the colonial enterprise. Haafner was orphaned in the Dutch East Indies, and lived in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Mauritius for more than 20 years. On his return to Europe he transformed himself into one of the most popular travel story writers of the early 19th century. Books like his popular Travels in a Palanquin were translated into the major European languages, and his essays on the havoc wrought by missionaries worldwide stirred up great controversy. He was a fierce critic of English machinations in India: "Had I to write the history of the English and their deeds in Asia", Haafner once said, "it would be the spitting image of hell". But there was a scholarly side to him to complement the pamphleteer and travel writer, working to promote European understanding of Indian literature, myth and religion, including through his rendering of the Ramayana into Dutch.

With the help of generous excerpts from Haafner's own writings, including material newly translated into English, Paul van der Velde tells an affecting story of a young man who made a world for himself along the Coromandel Coast, in Ceylon and Calcutta, but who returned to Europe to live the last years of his life in Amsterdam, suffering an acute nostalgia for Asia: "No, in Europe and especially in its northern climes, no one enjoys their life...." This will be compelling reading for anyone interested Asia through the eyes of an unprejudiced cosmopolitan.

Life Under the Palms