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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Life Under the Palms

The Sublime World of the Anti-colonialist Jacob Haafner

Jacob Gotfried Haafner (1754–1809) was one of the most popular European travel writers of the early nineteenth century, writing in the Romantic mode. A Dutch citizen, Haafner spent more than twenty years of his early life living outside of Europe, in India, Ceylon, Mauritius, Java, and South Africa. Books like his popular Travels in a Palanquin were translated into the major European languages, and his essays against the work of Christian missionaries in Asia stirred up great controversy. Haafner worked to spread understanding of the cultures he’d come to know in his journeys, promoting European understanding of Indian literature, myth, and religion, translating 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. This will be compelling reading for anyone interested in European response to the cultures of Asia.

200 pages | 15 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Biography and Letters

History: Asian History

Travel and Tourism: Tourism and History

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“Haafner’s stories often seem outrageous, yet van der Velde shows how independent records verify his accounts.”

Praise for the Dutch edition | NRC Handelsblad

“A vibrant and deliberately concise biography. . . . van der Velde paints a unique image of the late eighteenth-century colonial world, through the medium of Haafner’s stories.”

Praise for the Dutch edition | De Leeswolf

“The book opens a window onto the 19th century colonial world by including excerpts and examples of Haafner's original writings and his sketches. The book provides an approachable point of view on the available sources to a learner interested in studying the colonial past. Further, the author's expertise and in-depth research in the field ensure an authentic account of Haafner's writings.”

The IIAS Newsletter

Table of Contents

Introduction: Haafner’s Journeys Haafner’s Work and His World Reactions to Haafner My Journey to Haafner Chapter 1: A Wandering Existence Carefree First Adventure in Porto Praya The Cape of Good Hope Adultery and Torture Khoikhoi Love Beads Famous Lost Son The Umbilical Cord Unravels Chapter 2: Struggle for Life Sardis: A Futile Person Graveyard of the Europeans Willem Koelbier: The Bloodthirsty Tiger At the Pen in Nagapatnam The Sadras Idyll Advanced Science Sadras Lost, Disastrous Cost Chapter 3: Where can Our Soul Shelter? Famine in Madras The Foolish Count Bonvoux Anna’s Embrace The Palmetto Oh, That Wanderlust! Baker George Most Reasonable of the Unreasonable Mestizo among the Mestizos Delusion and Pimberah Forsaken by Anna Chapter 4: Passion for India Merchant in Calcutta The Impetuous Julius Soubise Sunrise Mamia! Snakebite Lily of the South In the Land of the Dodo and Javanese Hawfinch Heaven and Earth Perished Chapter 5: Languishing in Europe Kees, Kees! Shouted the Orange Rabble A Full Purse The Haafner Case The Dutch Society of Sciences Laureate of the Teylers Theological Society The God of One’s Tyrants A Shot across the Bow of the Mission Phallus Worship Farewell Lovable Objects! Postscript Sources Jacob G. Haafner (1754–1809): A Brief Chronology of His Life List of Publications by Jacob Haafner List of Publications on Jacob Haafner Index

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