RE : Re: RE : RARA-AVIS: B.Traven _Treasure of the Sierra Madre

From: E. Borgers (
Date: 16 Jul 2007

My previous mail was ambiguous, I admit it.
  In fact I was speaking only of the novel Death Ship.
  I have tried to read another novel by Traven (long long ago), but I do not recall which one.
  Anyway, to answer Richard and Sonny : no, I never red THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, as my experience with "Death Ship" was not very good (maybe the translation I had was lousy, which is very possible as it was something translated before 1940 and most probably hacked as well - I discovered the translations/versions problems only a few years ago). In fact I stayed also away from the TREASURE after this experience, afraid of discovering a bad novel compared to the film masterpiece by John Huston- film I saw many many times since end of the fifties. I admire this film and IMO the first 20 minutes of it is a lesson in cinema making, wherein everything contributes to an astounding result: cinematography, editing (montage), dialogue, timing, rhythm, lighting, actors.
  But after what Richard told us about the real quality of the novel TREASURE… I will try to find an English translation of it, or a recent one in French (if this exists).

Richard Moore <> a 飲it : I almost always agree with your opinions but I cannot disagree more with your dismissal of the work of B. Traven. His work is uneven with some novels better than others--but this can be said of nearly every writer. His style is often conversational--the storyteller-- but I like that style and find it quite accessable. My favorite Traven novel is THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, which I would put at the top of any list of the "easily readable" and I've reread it more than any other novel. I picked up the Pocket Books edition with Bogart on the cover when I was 12 and read it in one gulp and then reread it immediately. I lucked into a first American edition when I was 14 and picked it up for $8 although that was a lot of money to me then.

But I do respect your view as always even on this rare point of disagreement. I also think very highly of some of his shorter work as represented in his collection THE NIGHT VISITOR.

The fellow who finally tracked down the details on Traven was Will Wyatt who produced a BBC special and then a book entitled THE SECRET OF THE SIERRA MADRE: THE MAN WHO WAS B. TRAVEN (Doubleday 1980). An interesting earlier work by Judy Stone is THE MYSTERY OF B. TRAVEN (William Kaufmann 1977) which includes impressions from her conversations with the old man in Mexico. A comprehensive, if somewhat turgid, biography was published by Karl S. Guthke In 1987.

Richard Moore

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