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.
Paul van der Velde is a historian and expert on the Dutch in Asia. He is the editor, along with J.A. de Moor, of a critical edition of Jacob Haafner's writings, author of a Haafner biography in Dutch, and he has edited and written a number of works on Asian Studies and Asian regionalism.
Liesbeth Pankaja Bennink is a Bharatanatyam dancer, writer, researcher and translator with a deep interest in all aspects of South Indian history and culture