Biography of Author B. Traven Part 1

About the reclusive writer B. Traven, biography and history of the author of The Treasure of Sierra Madre.


B. Traven (1890?--1969)

Although his most famous work was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (made into a highly successful Humphrey Bogart movie), B. Traven wrote 11 other novels and numerous short stories. In all, they were translated into 36 languages and appeared in 500 editions. But the man acknowledged as a major 20th-century author is a man without a country, without a name, without a personal history. Hal Croves, who called himself Traven's agent, declared, "Forget the man...write about his works." Traven fans have failed to take this advice.

Most researchers trace Traven back to an actor-editor named Ret Marut, a member of the Spartakus band, an intellectual minority of political activists in Germany who opposed the country's involvement in W. W. I and the subsequent rise of fascism. Marut published a periodical in Munich which he used as a platform to rage against war, nationalism, and racism. Why he was not jailed remains a mystery--unless one subscribers to the belief that Marut was in actuality the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who protected him from harassment. Marut finally suffered the consequences of his opinions in 1919, when he opposed the newly established socialist republic on the grounds that it was as oppressive as the kaiser's regime had been. As a result, Marut was kidnapped on May 1 and taken to the war ministry, where he was charged with crimes against the state. When a disturbance broke out in the midst of the mock trial, Marut took the opportunity to escape. Shortly afterward, he disappeared.

In the 1920s, a man called Hal Croves surfaced in Mexico. Self-described as a "cousin" of author B. Traven, he acted as Traven's agent for the publication of a series of novels, including The Death Ship (1926), The Treasure of the Sierrra Madre (1927), White Rose (1929), and a group of six books set in the Mexican jungles which described the struggles of Indian laborers victimized by capitalism. The novels' increasing popularity stimulated much interest in the elusive author. In the late 1940s, Luis Spota, a Mexican journalist, identified Croves as Traven and tracked him down in Acapulco, where he had been living since 1933. Croves vehemently denied the allegation and disappeared from Acapulco soon after the story appeared.

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