Biography of Author B. Traven Part 2

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


B. Traven (1890?--1969)

In 1964, U.S. journalist Judy Stone was granted a series of interviews with the man who called himself Hal Croves, at that time living in Mexico City. Croves explained that Traven was on an extended trip through the tropics of southern Mexico, but he (Croves) consented to discuss Traven's philosophy with Stone and elaborate on some of Traven's recurrent themes: the dehumanizing effects of material greed (illustrated by the obsession with gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and the corrupting influence of oil in The White Rose); the need for meaningful, creative work; and the importance of the individual's quest for his own moral and philosophical answers. As Traven had declared in The Rebellion of the Hanged. "Nothing is established for eternity in this world, and all that you can count on is what is renewed and struggled for every day." It closely echoed Marut's exhortation to become a "permanent revolutionary."

When Hal Croves died on Mar. 26, 1969, in accordance with his wishes his ashes were scattered over the jungles of Chiapas, the setting for Traven's highly regarded jungle novels. Shortly after his death, Croves's Mexican wife, Rosa Elena Lujan, released a story to the Associated Press in which she stated that her husband was indeed B. Traven as well as Ret Marut. Although she had previously intimated that he was the illegitimate son of the kaiser, she now declared that her husband's real name was Berick Traven Torsvan and that he was the son of a Norwegian farmer and his English wife, born on Mar. 5, 1890, in Chicago. However, an examination of the birth registration records for that date fails to reveal any such name.

B. Traven's true identity remains a mystery. In The Death Ship, one of Traven's characters states, "If you do not wish to be lied to, do not ask questions!" When pressured by his publishers for biographical information, Traven had replied by letter, "In my books you will find my whole personality." Traven kept his life a carefully guarded secret in order to ensure that what he had to say was more important than what he was. If the man remains a mystery, the works divulge a great deal and perhaps provide the only key to the real B. Traven.

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