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The mysterious B. Traven (1890-1969) was born in Chicago, spent his youth in Germany as an itinerant actor and revolutionary journalist, became a seaman on tramp steamers, settled in Mexico in the early 1920s, and began recording his experiences in novels and stories. In the United States his best-known novel is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
The bloody uprising of the Indian people of Chiapas early this year obsessed authorities and captivated the imagination of Mexicans far beyond the rebel strongholds in this southern Mexican-Indian jungle. This spirit of rebellion that permeated the Mexican revolution was captured over a half-century ago in Traven's ``jungle novels.'' Trozas depicts the circumstances and origins of the discontent that brought down the rule of Porfiorio Diaz. The despicable conditions of neglect and exploitation in the monteria are described through the experiences of a young Indian, Andres Ugaldo, virtually a slave laborer. The system of peonage, legally abolished in 1917, was still rampant during the Diaz regime; the German author, e.g., Traven Torsvan, who was blacklisted by the Nazis, had firsthand knowledge of it from having lived in that country then. This literary classic still resonates for the disenfranchised in Chiapas. Highly recommended.-- Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N.Y.
Best known for his adventure classic The Treasure of Sierra Madre , the mysterious Traven (1890-1969), who wrote in German but was probably American-born, also created a six-volume series of Jungle Novels about the Mexican Revolution, of which this is the fourth installment. Never before translated into English, it displays the author's customary disdain for authority and sympathy for the oppressed while painting a devastating, painfully detailed picture of conditions on a mahogany plantation in the southern province of Chiapas. The vicious Montellano brothers, a trio of Spaniards who are not really related, take over the plantation and begin brutalizing the workers, among them Andres Ugaldo, a young Indian with a growing sense of self-worth; Celso Flores, a skilled, experienced slave laborer whom even the cruel overseers dare not push too far; and Vincente, a mere boy forced to do a man's work to pay his family's debts. Meanwhile, a mysterious singer in the darkness hints of the revolution to come. Not for everyone, and more a long narrative episode than a conventional story with a resolution, this nonetheless offers a fascinating look at a terrible place and time. Over the next two years, Dee will issue paperback editions of the other five Jungle Novels. (Mar.)
B. Traven is coming to be recognized as one of the narrative masters of the twentieth century. The New York Times The Jungle Novels constitute one of the richest portraits of revolution in all literature. University Review Great storytellers often arise like Judaic just men to exemplify and rehearse the truth for their generation. B. Traven was such a man. Book World Traven is a riveting storyteller. The Philadelphia Inquirer Readers who ignore the genius of B. Traven do so at their peril. The New York Times