Erwin Reads

In dienst van de Compagnie. Leven bij de VOC in honderd getuigenissen (1602-1799) - Vibeke D. Roeper, R. van Gelder

In dienst van de Compagnie



In the service of the Dutch East India Company (1602-1799) A hundred eyewitness accounts.


In a hundred small chapters this book provides readers a peek at the lives of the people who made the first multinational company in history a success but also a failure in the end.
For two hundred years the Dutch East India Company was a major player in international trade in Asia and with Asian nations. For a long time Batavia, on Java, was the centre of intra Asian trade and shipping networks. It even became an, unwilling, imperial force in part of Asia, especially on Java.
In this book we read the accounts of people from all layers of society who had dealings with the Company: soldiers, surgeons, ship captains, passengers, commanders, reverends, accountants and others.
This is not about statistics, facts and theory. This is about bewilderment, amazement, sorrow and (some) joy, victory and defeat, corruption, hardship and (human) tragedy, sickness and death. These are eyewitness accounts in a time when ships were still made of wood and men made of steel.
This book is divided in eleven parts which divide the stories in parts of the journey to the East, starting in the Dutch Republic, where sailors and soldiers were recruited to the journey south to the Cape, to the Indonesian Archipelago and the different other parts in Asia where the Dutch had their trading posts and their own territories, and finally ending with the return journey(which about a third of all EIC employees never made).
I am a part time volunteer tour guide on a replica of the EIC merchant ship 'Batavia' from 1628. This book provided me with enough stories to tell our visitors and make a part of Dutch history come alive.


The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks Well, this certainly was a memorable piece of work. Most characters (if not all) in this book were scary, nuts and out-of-this-world!

Frank, a sixteen-year old boy, is not quite normal (understatement). He himself believes he is the sanest member of his family and he is almost right. The atrocious acts he commits against animals and people alike, and his line of thinking are upsetting at the very least!

While Frank awaits the inevitable arrival of his insane half brother Eric who escaped from a psychiatric hospital, he proudly informs us of his strange rituals and violent vengeful past.

The story is certainly entertaining (in a disturbing sort of of way) and has an interesting twist at the end. The absurdities of the Cauldhame family members (Frank in particular) are plenty and described in detail. This novel is not for the faint-hearted. Hold your breath, be brave and enjoy the ride!
The Pearl - John Steinbeck Be careful what you wish for... This seems to be the biggest lesson to be learnt from this parable. This is the second time I read this short novel. The first time being in highschool. The story was not bad but it was too descriptive for my taste which made progress too slow. Three stars for sentimental value.
The Glass Palace - Amitav Ghosh Wow! I have just finished one of my new favourite books! And I believe I will hit the "become a fan" button on Ghosh's page here on Goodreads after I finish this! (I loved Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke too) This book was a fantastic ride through part of South East Asia's history! A fascinating family drama that never bored. Well-written and a sad but also touching end. Well Done!!
Serious Men - Manu Joseph After a slow start (too slow) and several moments when I almost gave up, the story finally picked up the pace and a deviously funny story unfolded. This book will get a positive rating. His second novel, The Illicit Happiness of Other People, is way better, though!!
The Gift Of Rain - Tan Twan Eng Magnificent!! A favourite! Looking forward to the next Tan Twan Eng novel!