Daum, Paulus Adrianus

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Daum, Paulus Adrianus

With the exception of Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker, 1820–1887) with his famous novel Max Havelaar (1860), Paulus Adrianus Daum is the most important author of Dutch Indies literature of the nineteenth century. The ten "Indies" novels he wrote between 1883 and 1894 appeared originally as serials in Indies newspapers.

Daum was born in The Hague. He began his journalistic career in his native town in 1876. By then he had already achieved a certain reputation as the author of (extremely romantic) novelettes. In 1878 he was appointed coeditor of the newspaper De Locomotief (The Locomotive) in Semarang on Java. Within a year he became its editor-in-chief. It was the start of what was to become a truly remarkable career. After De Locomotief, Daum managed the newspapers Het Indisch Vaderland (The Indies Fatherland, also published in Semarang, 1883–1885) and the Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad (Batavian News, 1885–1898), which under his leadership became the most widely read paper in the Indies.

Daum's appointment as a leader of De Locomotief offered him the freedom to display his abilities to the full. The social climate in the Indies was much more informal than in Holland, and the newspapers, too, were considerably livelier than at home. It was therefore in his Indies journalism that Daum was able to develop his stylistic skills.

It was during his first years in the East, too, that Daum became acquainted with the works of the French novelist Émile Zola (1840–1902). Zola's conception of literature brought about a complete reversal of Daum's views on literature. Like Zola, Daum began to regard observation and realistic representation as the primary goal of literature. Nevertheless Daum was also critical of Zola: unlike him, Daum did not consider the "scientific method" essential for the writing of novels. For Daum, the essence of Zola's naturalism lay in realism.

When Daum decided to write a novel himself, he knew exactly what he wanted to create: a novel that would contain an objective picture of a piece of colonial reality. He knew about the realities of the Indies as no other European: apart from the fact that he lived in the colonial society, he was, because of his journalistic observation post, shrewder than others in perceiving what went on in that society. And as a writer who had already won his spurs in journalism, he was well aware of his own ability.

In 1883 Daum published his first novel: Uit de suiker in de tabak (From Sugar to Tobacco). Other well-known novels are Goena-goena (1989), Indische mensen in Holland (Indies People in Holland, 1890), and Ups en Downs in het Indische leven (Ups and Downs of Life in the Indies, 1892). Daum's novels are set in the European society of the Indies during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. They describe the lives of planters and civil servants, of Eurasians in their marginal position, and of native Indonesians insofar as they participated in European society—as servants, for example, or as concubines of white masters. But the main subjects are the Europeans, depicted against the background of their expatriate community. Readers are told of their superficial materialism, their ambitions, and their love lives, both inside and outside marriage. Not only the "ups" of life in the Indies are described, but also the "downs"—the murder and suicide, the moral and mental decline, the despair and the loneliness of people disillusioned by the circumstances in which they find themselves.

In mid-1898 Daum's journalistic career abruptly came to an end. Because of a serious illness of the liver, he was forced to leave hurriedly for the Netherlands. It was all in vain. He died in September 1898 and found his resting place in the cemetery in Dieren (near Arnhem). He was just forty-eight years old.

see also Empire, Dutch; Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker).


Beekman, E. M. "P. A. Daum (1850–1898): Dutch Colonial Society and the American South." In Troubled Pleasures: Dutch Colonial Literature from the East Indies, 1600–1950, 324-391. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

Daum, P. A. Ups and Downs of Life in the Indies. Translated by Elsje Qualms Sturtevant and Donald W. Sturtevant; edited by E. M. Beekman. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.

Daum, P. A. Verzamelde romans. 3 vols. Amsterdam: Nijgh and van Ditmar, 1997–1998.

Termorshuizen, Gerard. P.A. Daum: Journalist en romancier van tempo doeloe. Amsterdam: Nijgh and Van Ditmar, 1988.