B. Traven

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
B. Traven alias Ret Marut alias Otto Feige; Police photograph of Ret Maruts on the occasion of the arrest, London, 1923

B. Traven (born February 28, 1882 in Schwiebus ; † March 26, 1969 in Mexico City ), German writer and bestselling author filmed several times, is the pseudonym of the German metalworker and union secretary Otto Feige according to current knowledge . B. Traven's real name, date and place of birth, and details of life have long been controversial among literary scholars and are still not generally accepted in research. For a long time it was only certain that B. Traven lived from 1924 in Mexico , the country in which the plot of most of his novels and stories is set.

Traven's identity has long been the subject of much speculation. However, it has long been undisputed that he is identical to the theater actor and anarchist Ret Marut , who fled to Mexico in 1924. Through the research of BBC journalist Will Wyatt in 1974 and subsequent research by Jan-Christoph Hauschild, it was confirmed in 2012 that B. Traven and Ret Marut are pseudonyms of the machinist and union secretary Otto Feige, who is from Schwiebus in the Prussian province of Brandenburg , today Świebodzin ( Poland ). After World War II , two other people were accepted as Traven: Berick Traven Torsvan and Hal Croves . Both posed as his literary agents , but always denied being B. Traven themselves.

Traven is the author of twelve novels, a travelogue and many short stories in which the genre of adventure stories, sometimes written in an ironic and sarcastic style , is combined with an attitude critical of capitalism . Traven's revolutionary, socialist and anarchist views become clear. B. Traven's best-known works include the novels Das Totenschiff from 1926, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1927 and the so-called Caoba Cycle , a group of six novels from the years 1930 to 1939, whose plot shortly before and during the Mexican Revolution Plays early 20th century. B. Traven's novels and stories were successful in the interwar period and remained so after World War II. His works have been translated into over 24 languages ​​and have an estimated total circulation of over 30 million.


The novels

Daily newspaper Vorwärts , with which Traven made its debut (front page of the first edition of the newspaper from 1876)

Traven entered the German literary stage in 1925 when the Berlin daily Vorwärts , “Central organ of the Social Democratic Party of Germany ”, published his story How gods arise on February 28, 1925 . In June and July of the same year his first novel, The Cotton Pickers , was published there . The Buchmeister publishing house Berlin / Leipzig, where the left, founded by the Education Association of German printers Book Club Books Gutenberg belonged, in 1926 brought the extended edition of the novel under the title of Wobbly out in footnotes as "a member of the IWW = Industrial Workers of the World ; a very radical workers organization ”explains. Later editions returned to The Cotton Pickers . The book introduced the character of Gerald Gales (in other works also Gale or Gerard Gales), an American seaman who is looking for work in various professions in Mexico, often in a shady environment and as a victim and witness of capitalist exploitation the will to fight and still does not lose the love of life.

In the same year 1926, the Gutenberg Book Guild, which remained the main publisher of B. Travens until 1939, published his second novel Das Totenschiff . The hero of the novel is again Gerald Gale, as a sailor who, after losing his documents and thus his identity, forfeits the right to a normal life and his homeland and finally finds himself on a "death ship" which the owners used for the purpose of insurance fraud is sunk on the high seas. The novel is an indictment of the greed of capitalist employers and the bureaucratism of the officials who keep deporting Gale from the countries where he is trying to find refuge. The death ship can therefore also be viewed as a novel with autobiographical elements. If one assumes that B. Traven is identical with the revolutionary Ret Marut, there are clear parallels in the work between the fate of Gale and the life of his homeless author, who may also have been forced to travel to the boiler room of a steamship from Europe Mexico to work.

The best-known novel by B. Travens, along with The Death Ship , is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1927. His heroes are a group of American adventurers and gold prospectors in Mexico. In 1948 the book was made into a film by Hollywood director John Huston under the same title with great success.

The character of Gerald Gales returned in the fourth novel Travens - Die Brücke im Dschungel - which appeared in sequels in Vorwärts in 1927 and was published in 1929 as an expanded book. In the novel, von Traven dealt for the first time in detail with the situation of the indigenous people living in Mexico and the differences between Christian and indigenous cultures in Latin America , topics that also dominated Traven's later caoba cycle.

In 1929, B. Traven published his most extensive novel, The White Rose , an epic, fact-based story of the expropriation of a Native American tribe by an American oil company.

Mexican indigenous people (19th century lithograph)

Most notably, the 1930s is the time when Traven created the caoba cycle . It consists of six novels published in the period 1931–1939: The Cart (also known as The Carreta , 1931), Government (1931), The March into the Empire of the Caoba (1933), The Troza (1936) , The Hanged Riot (1936) and A General Comes from the Jungle (1939). The novels describe the life of the Mexican indigenous peoples who were forced to work in forced labor camps (so-called monterías ) in the jungle in the state of Chiapas at the beginning of the 20th century, cutting mahogany wood, which ultimately led to mutiny and the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution .

After completing the caoba cycle, B. Traven fell silent as the author of major literary works. This was followed by stories, including the 1950 novel (the Mexican fairy tale) Macario , which was named the best short story of the year by the New York Times in 1953 . In 1960, Travens published the last novel, Aslan Norval , the story of an American millionaire who is married to an aging businessman and at the same time in love with a young man. It intends to build a canal across the United States as an alternative to nuclear armament and space exploration. The theme and language of the novel, which differed completely from the other work of the writer, meant that it was rejected by publishers for a long time. Traven's authorship was questioned; the novel was accused of " pornography " and "triviality". The book was only accepted after a thorough stylistic editing by Johannes Schönherr , who adapted his language to the Traven style. Doubts about Aslan Norval persist to this day and further complicate the question of the author's identity and the actual authorship of his books.

Other works

Book cover design of the original edition from 1928

Traven's narrative is extensive. In addition to the above-mentioned Macario , the author also worked on an Indian legend of the origin of the sun and the moon in Chiapas ( Sun Creation , first published in Czech in 1934, the German original published in 1936). The volume Der Busch from 1928 brought together twelve stories, in 1930 the second expanded edition was published. Many stories and novellas only appeared in magazines and anthologies in various languages during his lifetime .

Tacana volcano in the highlands of Chiapas , border area Guatemala

The report Land des Frühling from 1928 occupies a special position in Traven's oeuvre . The report of a trip to the Mexican state of Chiapas gave him the opportunity to develop his left-anarchist worldview. The Gutenberg Book Guild illustrated the book with Traven's own photographs, some of which captured the landscape of Chiapas - but above all of its inhabitants, the indigenous Maya people.

Statement of the works of B. Traven

Traven's works can best be described as "proletarian adventure novels". They are about pirates , Indians and outlaws and therefore share many motifs with authors such as Karl May or Jack London . Unlike most representatives of the western or adventure genre, Traven is not only characterized by a very detailed characterization of the social milieu of his protagonists, but he wrote his books consistently from the perspective of the "oppressed" and "exploited". His characters stand on the fringes of society, come from the proletarian and lumpenproletarian milieu. Always more antiheroes than heroes, they nonetheless have a primordial life force that repeatedly forces them to revolt. The “just order” or Christian morality that shines through in many adventure novels does not apply to Traven and his heroes.

Instead, the focus is always on the anarchic element of rebellion. It always arises from the direct rejection of the heroes' degrading living conditions; it is always the disenfranchised themselves who make their liberation or at least a rebellious gesture. There are no political programs, the vaguely anarchist “ ¡Tierra y Libertad! “Of the Caoba cycle is probably one of the most dedicated manifestos in Traven's novels. Professional politicians, including those on the left, get off particularly badly at Traven, if he mentions them at all, and are the target of various insults.

Still, Traven's novels are considered political books. Although he refuses a positive program, he is never afraid to name the cause of the suffering of his protagonists. This source of agony, degradation, misery and death is for him "Caesar Augustus Imperator", as the dictation of capital in The Dead Ship is called. Traven succeeds in articulating his criticism of capitalism without an instructive index finger and actually reaching the proletarian target audience by tying into Western and sailor motifs.

By focusing on the oppression and exploitation of the Mexican Indians in his criticism of capitalism, he proved himself to be a particularly progressive author for the 1930s with these motifs, especially developed in the caoba cycle, because European intellectuals were not yet interested in them at the time Oppression in Latin America. Traven's books first made the attempts at liberation of the indigenous people in Germany known.

The riddle of B. Traven's biography

Moved to Ciudad Victoria , the capital of the state of Tamaulipas , where B. Traven lived

Traven sent his works himself or through agents for publication from Mexico to Europe by post. He gave his PO box at a Mexican post office as the return address. As the owner of the copyrights in his books, “B. Traven, Tamaulipas, Mexico ”. Neither the European nor the American publishers Travens got to know him personally. The people with whom they negotiated about the publication and then also the filming of his books claimed in any case that they were only spokesmen for Traven. The identity of the writer himself should be kept a secret. B. Traven explained this refusal to provide any information about his biography in the words that became one of his most famous quotes:

"If the human being cannot be recognized in his works, then either the human being is worthless or his works are worthless."

The enigmatic author quickly became very popular (the Brockhaus Encyclopedia dedicated an entry to him as early as 1934), and literary critics, journalists and others tried to determine his identity. They put forward more or less credible, sometimes fantastic hypotheses. The director Jürgen Goslar shot the five-part documentary Im Busch von Mexico - Das Rätsel B. Traven in 1967 , which pursued all possible theories and used historical material in addition to re-enacted scenes. Traven's voice from off-screen was Günther Neutze's .

Biography until 1924

If the findings of Will Wyatt and Jan-Christoph Hauschild are correct, which is hardly disputed, B. Traven was born as Herrmann Albert Otto Max Feige on February 23, 1882 in Schwiebus, Brandenburg (today Świebodzin, Poland). His parents were the potter Adolf Feige and the factory worker Hermine Wienecke. From 1896 to 1900 he trained as a machine fitter, from 1901 to 1903 he did his military service in Bückeburg, from 1904 to 1906 he worked in Magdeburg, where he was a candidate for the metalworkers' association on May 21, 1905. In the summer of 1906 he became managing director appointed to the Gelsenkirchen administrative office of the German Metalworkers' Association.

In the fall of 1907 he quit his job and turned into the actor Ret Marut from San Francisco. He made use of the fact that in the earthquake in California of 1906 almost all official files and documents had been destroyed; his parentage was thus mysteriously veiled. That Traven had planned it just as strategically was confirmed by his widow in 1990, 21 years after Traven's (supposed) death. Idar and Crimmitschau were stations of his acting career.

The New Theater Almanac, published by the Cooperative of German Stage Members , is listed by Ret Marut in the addendum to the 1911 edition of the Berlin “New Stage”, a touring theater for the provinces of Pomerania, East and West Prussia, Poznan and Silesia. Marut is named there in several functions, including a. as a director and actor. Among the women is Elfriede Zielke, who gave birth to their daughter Irene in Danzig in 1912.

In 1912, Ret Marut was performed as a member of the Danzig City Theater, as an actor and as chairman and treasurer of the Künstlerheim. Damm 2 is mentioned as Marut's residential address in Gdansk. In the 1913 year of the Theater-Almanac, Marut lived in Düsseldorf on Friedrichstrasse. 49 and is a performing member at the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf .

In Düsseldorf, the drama student Irene Mermet (1892–1956) from Cologne became his partner, with whom he gave up acting in autumn 1915 and moved to Munich. From the summer of 1917 he published the magazine Der Ziegelbrenner there , which advocated international understanding and friendship in the middle of the war. At the beginning of 1917 the war novella An das Fräulein von S… appeared under the pseudonym Richard Maurhut ; In the summer of 1918 he published a collection of his short stories under the title Der BLaugetupfte SPerlinG .

Memorial plaque for B.Traven (Ret Marut) on the residential building at Clemensstrasse 84 in Munich

During the short period of the Munich Soviet Republic , Marut became head of the press department of the Central Council in the spring of 1919 and was the driving force behind the planned socialization of the press. He was also committed to the establishment of revolutionary criminal courts. When, on May 1, 1919 government forces and Free Corps organizations began with the defeat of the Soviet rule, he was arrested as ringleaders. Shortly before being sentenced by a field court, he was able to flee and since then has lived underground with changing stations. Irene Mermet managed to immigrate to the USA in 1923, Marut's simultaneous attempt via Canada failed due to his lack of a visa, Mermet later married the lawyer John Hanna and kept a low profile about her past. At the end of 1923 he was temporarily taken into deportation detention in London. In the summer of 1924 he managed to enter Mexico; six years later he was officially registered there as a US citizen Traven Torsvan.

Review of biographical research

The Ret Marut Hypothesis

Anarchist magazine Der Ziegelbrenner , published by Ret Marut

The first hypothesis about the identity of B. Traven was put forward by the anarchist and writer Erich Mühsam , who suspected the actor and journalist Ret Marut behind this pseudonym. This Marut, allegedly a US citizen from San Francisco, has appeared on theatrical stages in Idar , Suhl , Crimmitschau , Danzig and Düsseldorf since the end of 1907 ; he also worked sporadically as a director and published short stories. During the First World War he began to be politically active: from 1917 to 1921 he published the magazine Der Ziegelbrenner with a clearly anarchist profile. When the Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Munich in April 1919 , Marut was appointed head of the press department of the Central Council of the Soviet Republic and a member of the Propaganda Committee. In this way he met Erich Mühsam, with whom he became friends. After the fall of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, Marut was arrested on May 1, 1919. However, he managed to flee and avoid a standing trial. In 1924 he disappeared without a trace. Ret Marut had been wanted by the Bavarian police since 1919. When B. Traven's first novels appeared, Mühsam came to the conclusion that their author must be the same person because of parallels in terms of language and content with the writings of Marut, which he knew. Under the title Wo ist der Ziegelbrenner , Mühsam published in his magazine Fanal in 1927 an appeal to Marut to go public and report first hand on what was happening in Munich. At the same time a request was made to forward the appeal to Marut, provided that a reader is aware of his whereabouts.

The Ret Marut hypothesis was first presented in detail in 1966 by Rolf Recknagel , a GDR literary scholar, in his Traven biography. The hypothesis is widely accepted today.

Research on Otto Feige

Town hall in Schwiebus, the presumed birthplace of B. Travens (postcard from around 1900)

For a long time it was not clear how the former actor and anarchist Ret Marut got to Mexico, and nothing was known about his early years. In the late 1970s, two BBC journalists, Will Wyatt and Robert Robinson, addressed this question. They published the results of their investigations in a documentary that was broadcast on British television on December 19, 1978, and in Wyatt's book The man who was B. Traven . The journalists located Ret Marut's files in the State Department in the United States and the Foreign Office in Great Britain and discovered that Marut was trying to get to Canada from Europe via England in 1923 . However, he was sent back and then arrested by British police on November 30, 1923 and taken to Brixton Prison in London as a foreigner without a valid residence permit . During interrogation by the London police, Marut testified that his real name was Hermann Otto Albert Maximilian Feige and that he was born on February 23, 1882 in Schwiebus (now Świebodzin , Poland ).

Wyatt and Robinson researched the Polish archives and confirmed the authenticity of these claims: both the date and place of birth and the first names of the parents given by Marut are correct. The British journalists also noted that Otto Feige disappeared around 1904/1905 without a trace.

Since then, the literary scholar Jan-Christoph Hauschild has confirmed Will Wyatt's results as part of two six-month working grants from the Kunststiftung NRW and has also traced Otto Feige's further life after 1904. These results no longer leave any doubts as to the identity.

Ret Marut remained imprisoned until February 15, 1924. After his release, he reported to the US Consulate asking for confirmation of his US citizenship. He claimed that he was born in San Francisco in 1882 , signed up as a cabin boy at the age of 10, and has since traveled the world, but now wanted to settle his legal position. Even earlier, still in Germany, Marut had applied for US citizenship three times, specifying the place of birth San Francisco, February 25, 1882 and the parents William Marut and Helena Marut nee. Ottarent. The officers at the consulate did not believe this story, especially since they had received the second version of Marut's résumé from the London police. Since it was well known that the great earthquake of 1906 had destroyed the birth certificates, San Francisco was a popular address for false birth data.

The hypothesis that B. Traven is identical to Ret Marut and Otto Feige is accepted by many, but not all, researchers. But if Marut wasn't Feige, it is difficult to explain how he knew the details of his birth, including his mother's maiden name.

Arrival in Mexico

Ret Marut ended up in Mexico after he was released from prison in London. The circumstances of this trip are unclear. According to Rosa Elena Luján, Hal Croves' widow, who is identified by many researchers with B. Traven (see below), her husband worked as a sailor on a " death ship " (a scrap ship, mostly with a criminal record, after his release from prison) Seafarers who got no wages elsewhere and were therefore cheap and asked no questions) signed on and drove to Norway , from there to Africa with another soul seller, and finally in the summer of 1924 he was on board a Dutch steamer in Tampico on the Gulf arrived from Mexico . These claims can in part be confirmed by documents received. The name Marut is on the list of crew members of the Norwegian steamer "Hegre", which ran from London to the Canary Islands on April 19, 1924 . The name has been deleted from this list, however, which suggests that Marut did not take part in the trip after all.

After the revolution, Mexico was a haven for many American wobblies , socialists, and conscientious objectors when the United States entered World War I in 1917. One of the leading activists in this milieu was Linn AE Gale . While still in New York, he began to publish the magazine Gale's International Monthly for Revolutionary Communism, which was published in Mexico City from October 1918. From 1918 the Mexican section of the anarcho-syndicalist organization Industrial Workers of the World was also active. This was certainly a favorable environment for a refugee and anarchist from Europe (or the US). Perhaps knew Marut Linn Gales publication, which may be named "Gerald Gale" for the hero of many novels Traven, including The Cotton Pickers ( The Wobbly ) and The Death Ship , have led. However, it does not emerge from B. Travens' notes that he had to work as a day laborer in cotton and oil fields even under difficult conditions.

To resolve this contradiction, the Swiss researcher Max Schmid suggested in a series of eight articles The mysterious B. Traven , which appeared from November 2, 1963 to January 4, 1964 under the pseudonym Gerard Gale in the Saturday edition of the Zürcher Tages-Anzeiger , which so-called "experience carrier hypothesis". Ret Marut came to Mexico from Europe around 1922/1923 and there met a US tramp (of the "Gerald Gales" type) who wrote stories about his experiences. Marut had sneaked the manuscripts from him, translated them into German, added elements of his anarchist worldview and presented them to German publishers under the pseudonym B. Traven. Schmid's hypothesis has supporters as well as opponents, and it currently seems impossible to verify. In any case, B. Traven's (Ret Maruts?) Life in Mexico was no less enigmatic than his fate in Europe.

Traven Torsvan Hypothesis

Research identifies Traven with someone who called himself Torsvan. It is known that he rented a wooden house north of Tampico in 1924 and often stayed and worked there until 1931. For two decades since 1930 he lived in a small house and inn on the outskirts of Acapulco , from where he began his travels in Mexico.

In 1926 Torsvan took part as a photographer alongside the sociologist Frank Tannenbaum , the archaeologist Hermann Beyer and the entomologist Alfonso Dampf in the thirty-man expedition under Enrique Juan Palacios Mendoza (1881-1953) in the state of Chiapas ; One of the few photos of Traven Torsvan ( wearing a pith helmet ) comes from this research trip . Later he often traveled to Chiapas and other regions of Mexico, looking for material for his books and was very interested in the culture and history of Mexico. In 1927 and 1928 he attended the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) language courses in Spanish and in Indian languages , such as the Nahuatl of the Aztecs , and took part in lectures on the history of Latin American literature and the history of Mexico .

In 1930 Torsvan received an official foreigner card, in which he was named as the American engineer Traven Torsvan. Torsvan's first name appears in many sources: Berick or Berwick. B. Traven also loved to pretend to be an American. In 1933 the writer sent the New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf English manuscripts of his novels Das Totenschiff , The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Bridge in the Jungle , stating that these were the originals and the German versions published earlier were only their translations. Knopf published Das Totenschiff under the title The Death Ship in 1934, after which other books by Traven were published in the United States and Great Britain. A comparison of the German and English versions of these books shows great differences. The English texts are usually longer, in both versions there are parts that are missing in the other version. The editor at Knopf groaned at the many Germanisms , but conversely the German books contain Anglicisms .

B. Traven's works also enjoyed increasing popularity in Mexico. Esperanza López Mateos, the sister of the future President of Mexico Adolfo López Mateos , who had translated eight books by Traven into Spanish since 1941 and who was later also his agent in contact with the publishers and the owner of the copyrights, contributed a lot to this .

Film adaptation of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Hypothesis about Hal Croves

Sierra Madre Mountains, Mexico

Due to the success of the English edition of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , which was published by Knopf in 1935 , the film company Warner Bros. acquired the film rights for the novel in 1941. The director John Huston was commissioned to film it. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted work on the film, which only resumed after the war.

In 1946, Huston arranged to meet B. Traven at the Hotel Bamer in Mexico's capital to discuss the details of the film. Instead of the writer, an unknown man appeared who introduced himself as Hal Croves, translator from Acapulco and San Antonio , and showed the alleged authority of B. Traven in which the writer empowered him to make all decisions on his behalf. Instead of the writer, Croves was also present at the next meeting in Acapulco and then, as a technical consultant, at the location of the film during its realization in Mexico in 1947. This enigmatic behavior of the writer and his alleged agent meant that when the film was made, a large part of the team was convinced that Hal Croves was actually B. Traven himself in disguise. When the film (starring Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston ) became a box office hit and won three Academy Awards on January 23, 1948 , a true Traven fever broke out in the United States, largely for marketing reasons by the film company Warner Bros. itself stoked. The US media excitedly reported about a mysterious author who is said to have participated incognito in the realization of the film based on his novel.

In many of B. Traven's biographies the thesis is repeated that the director John Huston was convinced from the start that Hal Croves was B. Traven. That is not the truth. As early as 1948, Huston denied identifying Croves with Traven. Also in his autobiography, which was published in 1980, Huston wrote that he initially allowed Croves to be Traven, but after observing his behavior he came to the conclusion that this was not the case. According to Huston's remarks, however, Hal Croves played a double game in the realization of the film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre . When asked by the members of the team whether he was Traven, he said no, but he behaved in such a way that the questioners came to the conclusion that he and B. Traven were the same person after all.

The "unveiling" and disappearance of Torsvan

The media hype surrounding the premiere of The Treasure of Sierra Madre and the aura of mystery surrounding the author of the literary original (there were even rumors that Life magazine was paying five thousand dollars for the discovery des B. Traven), caused the Mexican journalist Luis Spota to decide to find Hal Croves, who had disappeared after the filming stopped in the summer of 1947. Using the information he received from the Banco de México , Spota found a man in July 1948 who was living near Acapulco under the name Traven Torsvan . He officially ran a restaurant there, but his shabby establishment didn't have many customers; Torsvan himself was a loner who his neighbors called El Gringo , which is a common name for an American in Latin American countries. During research in official archives, Spota discovered that Torsvan had received a foreigner's card in Mexico in 1930 and an identity card in 1942; Both documents gave his date of birth March 5, 1890 and Chicago as his place of birth . Torsvan was said to have come to Mexico from the USA in 1914 and crossed the border in Ciudad Juárez . Sometimes with unclean methods (Spota bribed the postman who delivered Torsvan letters), the journalist discovered that Torsvan was receiving fees in the name of B. Traven from a certain Josef Wieder from Zurich , and he also found a package of books from the US on his desk Writer Upton Sinclair , addressing B. Traven, p. A. Esperanza López Mateos, was addressed. When Spota asked Torsvan directly if he, Hal Croves and B. Traven were the same person, he excitedly denied the question, but in the opinion of the journalist Torsvan became completely unsure of the questions and eventually admitted indirectly that he was B. Traven .

Spota published the results of his research in a long article in Mañana magazine on August 7, 1948; on August 14, Torsvan's denial appeared in Hoy magazine . Soon after, Torsvan disappeared, as did Hal Croves before. The only information that remains about him from later years is that he was said to have received Mexican citizenship on September 3, 1951.

B. Traven's Agents. BT notifications

The above-mentioned translator Esperanza López Mateos worked with B. Traven at least since 1941 when she translated his first novel The Bridge in the Jungle into Spanish (later she also translated seven other novels by the author). Esperanza, the sister of the future President of Mexico Adolfo López Mateos , played an increasingly important role in Traven's life. In 1947 she traveled to Europe to represent him to his publishers, after all, since 1948, she had been registered as the owner of the copyrights in Traven's books, always together with Josef Wieder from Zurich. Josef Wieder had worked with the writer as an employee of the Gutenberg Book Guild since 1933. This year, the Berlin books Gutenberg, the former publisher of B. Traven was, after the seizure of power by Adolf Hitler by the Nazis closed (Traven's books were banned in the years 1933 to 1945 in Germany). The author transferred the rights to his books to the exile branch of the Book Guild in Zurich, where the publishers had emigrated. In 1939 Traven renounced the further collaboration with the book guild; since then Josef Wieder has acted as his representative, the former employee of the publishing house, but who never got to know the writer personally. Esperanza López Mateos committed suicide in 1951; her legal successor was Rosa Elena Luján , the future wife of Hal Croves.

In January 1951 Josef Wieder and Esperanza López Mateos (and after their death Rosa Elena Luján) began to publish the periodical " BT-Mitteilungen " (B. Traven Mitteilungen) on a hectograph in Zurich , which was supposed to advertise Traven's work and that until to the death of Wieders in 1960. In the opinion of Tapio Helen, this publication sometimes used vulgar methods and often published obvious falsifications, such as the price that was supposed to be offered by the magazine "Life" when it was already known that this price was just a marketing gimmick. In June 1952 this magazine published the "authentic biography" of Traven, according to which the writer was born in the American Midwest into a family of emigrants from Scandinavia , never went to school in his life, and had to earn a living from the age of 7 Came to Mexico as a cabin boy on board a Dutch steamer at the age of 10 . The often presented thesis that B. Traven's books were originally written in English and only then translated into German by a Swiss translator was repeated.

Return of Hal Croves

Meanwhile, Hal Croves, who disappeared after filming The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , reappeared on the literary stage in Acapulco. He appeared as a writer and agent for B. Traven, on whose behalf he negotiated with publishers and film companies about the editions and filming of his books. From 1952 Rosa Elena Luján was the secretary of Croves; on May 16, 1957, the two were married in San Antonio , Texas . After the wedding they moved to Mexico City, where they found the “R. E. Luján Literary Agency ”. After Josef Wieder's death in 1960, Rosa was the sole owner of the rights to Traven's books.

In October 1959, Hal Croves and Rosa Elena Luján visited Germany for the premiere of the film Das Totenschiff , which was based on the novel of the same name, Travens. Reporters tried to get Croves to confess that he was Traven, but to no avail. Such attempts were also unsuccessful later, in the 1960s. Journalists tried many times to get into Croves' house in Mexico, but only a few were admitted to him by Rosa, who protected the privacy of her already very old, half-blind and half-deaf husband; the articles and interviews with him always had to be authorized by his wife. When the journalists asked whether he was Traven, Croves answered no or avoided the question and repeated Traven's sentence from the 1920s that the work and not the person is important.

Death of Hal Croves. Solution of the riddle?

Hal Croves died in Mexico City on March 26, 1969. On the same day, his widow, Rosa Elena Luján, stated at a press conference that her husband's real name was Traven Torsvan, that her husband was born in Chicago on May 3, 1890, as the son of Burton Torsvan, of Norwegian descent, and Dorothy Croves, of Anglo-Saxon Descent, and that he also used the pseudonyms B. Traven and Hal Croves in his life. She read this information directly from her husband's will, which he had drawn up on March 4, 1969, three weeks before his death. The death certificate was also made out in the name of Traven Torsvan Croves; the ashes of the writer after the cremation were scattered from an airplane over the jungle in the state of Chiapas .

This seemed to be the final solution to the riddle of the writer's biography - B. Traven, as he had always maintained himself, turned out to be an American, not the German Ret Marut. But this solution was only apparent. Some time after Croves' death, his widow issued another press release stating that her husband had empowered her to tell the full story of his life - including those that he had kept secret in his will. She stated that Croves was a German revolutionary named Ret Marut in his youth, which reconciled both proponents of the theory of his American ancestry and those who believed Traven was German. In an interview with the International Herald Tribune on April 8, 1969, Rosa Elena Luján specified this information and stated that her husband's parents had moved to Germany from the United States some time after the birth of their son. Her husband had success there with the novel Das Totenschiff and then traveled to Mexico for the first time, but then returned to Germany to edit an anti-war magazine during the First World War in a country where "Nazism was growing in strength" . He was then sentenced to death, but managed to escape and return to Mexico. The interview with Luján gives rise to doubts, mainly due to the errors in the chronology - The Death Ship did not appear until 1926, long after the First World War.

On the other hand, the extensive archive of the late Hal Croves seems to confirm the hypothesis of B. Travens' German descent. Crove's widow only made this archive available to a few literary scholars until her death in 2009 - Rolf Recknagel researched it in 1976, who took some of it, and in 1982 Karl Guthke. The materials include train tickets and banknotes from various Central Eastern European countries, which could be a souvenir of Ret Marut's escape from Germany after the failed revolution in Bavaria in 1919. A very interesting document is a small notebook with entries in English. The first entry is from July 11, 1924, and the date July 26 was recorded in the notebook: “The Bavarian of Munich is dead”. The writer may have started these notes after arriving in Mexico from Europe, and the note could reflect the break with his European past and the beginning of a new existence as B. Traven.

B. Traven is Moritz Rathenau, Walther Rathenau's half-brother?

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of the Munich Soviet Republic , Timothy Heymann, the husband of B. Traven's stepdaughter Malú Montes de Oca and estate administrator B. Travens addressed the public in an article in the Mexican magazine Letras libres , for a plausible but so far to bring the little-noticed theory back into play, according to which B. Traven was the illegitimate son of the AEG founder Emil Rathenau and thus the half-brother of the politician Walter Rathenau . B. Traven's real name is Moritz Rathenau.

This information goes back to the translator Esperanza López Mateos, who had a close relationship with B. Traven and who addressed the writer as "Mauricio". In 1947 - four years before her death - she revealed her true identity to the Mexican cameraman Gabriel Figueroa , her brother-in-law. However, he was silent until 1990. Then he revealed the name in an article in the French daily Liberation . Figueroa also stated that Traven's mother was Irish actress Helen Mareck, which would explain why Traven spoke English so well, as well as its proximity to the theater. The Traven connoisseur Karl S. Guthke dealt with this theory in the Swiss monthly issue. Guthke came to the conclusion that the thesis could not be proven at the moment, but that there was a lot to speak for it: “What inspires confidence in the story (...) in principle is that it is based on Esperanza and, on the other hand, that it is a decidedly unromantic identification that Traven is not, as other hypotheses of origin suggest, the son of a fisherman, a farmer or a theater impresario. Guthke further points out that Ret Marut is an anagram of Moritz Rathenau. Emil Rathenau's middle name was Moritz, and his grandfather was also called Moritz. Emil Rathenau's marriage was not very happy, he loved the theater as well as women.

As a third point, Guthke mentions the fact that Ret Marut had repeatedly indicated that he was not dependent on theater fees, and that even the “brick maker” could hardly have brought in anything. If you assume that B. Traven is Moritz Rathenau, a lot makes sense. In many ways he was the opponent of his half-brother. Traven was a pacifist, the politician Walter Rathenau was responsible for the armaments of the First World War . Traven's solidarity with the proletariat in opposition to the large industrial relatives, of which he, as an illegitimate son, was not allowed to belong, would also be understandable.

Verification by the Rathenau family is probably not possible, says Guthke in 1990, as Emil Rathenau's remains were burned in 1943. And Walter Rathenau's estate is lost. Almost 30 years have passed since Guthke's essay. In the meantime it has been found that the estate of Walter Rathenau, which had disappeared since 1939, reappeared in the 1989 episode. It was in an archive in Moscow that was kept secret until 1990 and can now be viewed at the Walther Rathenau Society. The search for the mother, Helen Mareck, should not be completely hopeless today, since genealogy research can be carried out on the Internet without any problems.

Other hypotheses

The hypotheses presented above, which identify B. Traven with Hal Croves, Traven Torsvan, Ret Marut and possibly Otto Feige, are not the only ones that have surfaced since the mid-1920s. Some have certain scientific foundations, others have sprung from the imagination or simply appear implausible. Some of the most common hypotheses, apart from the hypotheses already mentioned, are summarized below:

  • B. Traven was German, but he did not come from Schwiebus, but from northern Germany, from a certain region between Hamburg and Lübeck. The well-preserved music cassette recorded by his stepdaughter Malú Montes de Oca (Rosa Luján's daughter), on which he sings two songs in German, with typical language characteristics not only for this region, testifies to this. Torsvan is a fairly common given name in this area and the Trave flows through the area . There are places here like Traventhal and Travenhorst , and there is a large ferry port in Lübeck's Travemünde district .
  • B. Traven was the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Such a hypothesis was put forward in 1967, after five years of research, by the Stern reporter Gerd Heidemann , who claimed that Rosa Luján had told him this. However, the journalist himself distanced himself from this hypothesis. In the 1980s, Heidemann compromised himself by helping to forge the alleged Hitler diaries .
  • The pseudonym B. Traven was used by August Bibelje , a former Hamburg customs officer, prospector and adventurer. This hypothesis was also put forward by Gerd Heidemann - and rejected. Heidemann continued, however, that Ret Marut probably met Bibelje after his arrival in Mexico and used his experiences in novels such as The Cotton Pickers , The Death Ship and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre . Biblje himself later returned to Europe and fell in the Spanish Civil War in 1937.
  • B. Traven is the pseudonym of Adolfo López Mateos , the President of Mexico from 1958–1964. The source of this rumor was likely the fact that Esperanza López Mateos, Adolfo's sister, was Traven's intermediary in contact with his publishers and the translator of his books into Spanish. Some even claimed that the books published under the pseudonym B. Traven were written by Esperanza himself.
  • Ivana and Martin Traven, siblings from the Slovenian village of Utik, believed in a 1960 photograph that they stumbled upon in a Ljubljana weekly newspaper and that shows a man named Hol Kroves, who often acted as Traven's agent, that they had disappeared since the First World War To have recognized Brother Franz Traven. So a number of assumptions suggested that “B. Traven ”was not a pseudonym that Hol Kroves could be identical to B. Traven and that he could be the missing Slovenian carpenter's son.

B. Traven's works

  • 1917–1921 as Ret Marut, publisher: Der Ziegelbrenner. 1st - 4th Born September 1917– December 1921, self-published in Munich. (40 numbers in 13 issues) ( Facsimile Leipzig Edition, Leipzig 1967).
  • 1925 The cotton pickers. In: Forward. June 21–16. July.
  • 1926 The Wobbly . First book The Cotton Pickers . Buchmeister publishing house, Berlin / Leipzig.
  • 1926 The Death Ship : Story of an American Sailor . Book Guild Gutenberg, Berlin (filmed in 1959 by Georg Tressler with Horst Buchholz , Mario Adorf and Elke Sommer )
  • 1928 The bush . Narrative volume (12 stories).
  • 1927 The treasure of the Sierra Madre . Book Guild Gutenberg, Berlin ( filmed in 1948 by John Huston with Humphrey Bogart in the leading role)
  • 1927 The bridge in the jungle. Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin
  • 1928 Land of Spring Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin
  • 1928 The bush . Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin. 2nd, expanded edition 1930 (20 stories).
  • 1929 The bridge in the jungle. Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin
  • 1929 The white rose . Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin
  • Six-part caoba cycle . (also known as the mahogany cycle. )
    • 1931 The cart. Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin; Revised and expanded new edition 1953: The Carreta
    • 1931 government. Gutenberg Book Guild, Berlin
    • 1933 The march into the empire of the caoba. A war march. Gutenberg Book Guild, Zurich / Vienna / Prague.
    • 1936 The Troza . Gutenberg Book Guild, Zurich / Prague.
    • 1936 The hanged man's rebellion . Book guild Gutenberg / Zurich / Prague.
    • 1940 A general comes out of the jungle . Allert de Lange, Amsterdam. (first publication by Axel Holmström Förlag, Stockholm, 1939; in Swedish)
  • 1936 Sun creation . Book Guild Gutenberg (Indian legend Tzeltal speaking Maya from Chiapas) (first in: FJ Muller, 1934; in Czech)
  • 1950 Macario . Book Guild Gutenberg, Zurich (Original title The Healer. Manuscript in English)
  • 1954 The bandit doctor. (Mexican stories)
  • 1956 Canasta de Cuentos Mexicanos. (Mexican stories, filmed in Mexico in 1956 by Julio Bracho , German premiere in 1958 under the sync title Canasta )
  • 1958 The third guest and other stories . Volk und Welt, Berlin (contains The Night Visit in the Bush. Sun Creation. )
  • 1960 Aslan Norval . Kurt Desch publishing house, Munich / Vienna / Basel.
  • 1961 Stories by the Man Nobody Knows: Nine Tales by B. Traven . Ed. Harlan Ellison . Regency Books (RB107; October 1961), Evanston, Illinois.
  • 1963 (1920) Khundar. The first book - encounters . Clou-Verlag, Egnach (Switzerland) (first published in April 1920 in the magazine Der Ziegelbrenner. )
  • 1977 work edition . Edgar Päßler. 18 volumes. Book guild Gutenberg, Frankfurt am Main.
  • 1992 I know life in Mexico. Letters to John Schikowski 1925–1932 . Limes, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin.
  • 2008 The prince's torch. Edited by Jörg Thunecke. Edition Refugium, Nottingham, England.
  • 2008 The man Site and the green glittering woman. Edited by Jörg Thunecke. Edition Refugium, Nottingham, England.



Web links

Commons : B. Traven  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Robert Robinson, Will Wyatt: The man who was B. Trafen, report of the British Broadcasting Company , 1978 (German version: Norddeutscher Rundfunk , there min. 48:15); accessed on March 25, 2019
  2. ^ Frank Nordhausen: The enigmatic Mr. Traven in Berliner Zeitung from March 23, 2019, p. 7
  3. [1]
  4. a b Jan-Christoph Hauschild: B. Traven - who is this man? In: FAZ.net . July 17, 2009, accessed January 6, 2015 .
  5. ^ Roy Pateman: The Man Nobody Knows: The Life And Legacy Of B. Traven . University Press Of America 2005, ISBN 0-7618-2973-3 , p. 1.
  6. a b B. Traven: The Wobbly . Buchmeister-Verlag, 1926, limited preview in Google book search
  7. a b c d e f g Works by B. Traven on the website of the International B. Traven Gesellschaft e. V., accessed on June 23, 2010.
  8. a b c d e f Rolf Cantzen: The revolution takes place in the novel. The political writer B. Traven. SWR radio broadcast with transcription ( Memento from December 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  9. The name comes from the Spanish word caoba - mahogany .
  10. The Swedish translation was published in 1939, the German original was published in 1940.
  11. a b c B. Traven: Lexicon of Anarchy. ( Memento of the original from July 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved June 23, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.dadaweb.de
  12. B. Traven: The Death Ship. Verlag Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig 1984, p. 135.
  13. Quoted from: Günter Dammann (Ed.): B. Traven's narrative in the constellation of language and cultures. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005, p. 311.
  14. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Tapio Helen: B. Traven's Identity Revisited. ( Memento from December 5, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  15. ^ A b Jan-Christoph Hauschild: Between self-staging and external construction: B. Traven's performance in the light of new research results. Lecture at the VII Congress of the Spanish Association of Germanists (Federación de Asociaciones de Germanistas de España, FAGE) at the Universitat de València, September 17, 2010.
  16. ^ Lutz Neuber: B. Traven in Magdeburg? In search of traces of Otto Feige .
  17. Larry Rohter: His Widow Reveals Much Of Who B. Traven Really Was. In: New York Times . June 25, 1990.
  18. ^ New theater almanac - theater history year and address book. Edited by Cooperative of German Stage Members. Günther, Berlin Vol. 22, year 1911, supplement.
  19. ^ In: New address book for Gdansk and its suburbs. Vol. 16, Danzig 1912, p. 318 there is the entry Marut, Robert, Demokratie, Damm 2.
  20. in: Address book 1913 for the city of Düsseldorf. Düsseldorfer Verlagsanstalt, Düsseldorf 1913: Marut, Ret, Schausp., Member d. Schauspielhauses, Herzogstr. 72. same 1914.
  21. ^ Karl S. Guthke : B. Traven. Diogenes, 1990, p. 218.
  22. Armin Richter: B. Traven and the Munich censorship: unpublished documents from the time of the 1st World War. In: Geist und Tat , 1970, No. 4, (October – December), pp. 225–233.
  23. Martin Hanni: Revolutionary grandmother . Interview with Zeno Braitenberg , at Salto.bz , December 25, 2019
  24. a b c About B. Traven - short biography. at the International B. Traven Gesellschaft e. V., accessed on June 23, 2010.
  25. Wolfgang Teichmann (Ed.): On the psychology of the Erbtante. Satirical reading book 1900–1933 , Eulenspiegel Verlag Berlin , 1984, p. 294 ff.
  26. ^ Rolf Recknagel: B. Traven: Contributions to biography. Reclam, Leipzig 1966.
  27. James Goldwasser attempted to reconstruct the detailed biography of Ret Marut (until 1923) in his article Ret Marut: The Early B. Traven , which was published in "The Germanic Review" in June 1993.
  28. Will Wyatt: The man who was B. Traven. Cape, London 1980, ISBN 0-224-01720-9 .
  29. ^ Karl S. Guthke: B. Traven: Biography of a riddle. Book guild Gutenberg, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-7632-3268-0 .
  30. ^ Forward , March 18, 1982.
  31. See Linn Gale offers to inform on Reds. In: The New York Times September 18, 1921.
  32. B. Traven is hiding in Acapulco.
  33. Juan Enrique Palacios: En los confines de la Selva Lacandona, exploraciones en el estado de Chiapas. Talleres Count. de la Nación, México, DF 1928.
  34. The name Hal Croves appeared earlier, for the first time in 1944, on the envelope of a letter addressed to him by Esperanza López Mateos.
  35. ^ John Huston: An Open Book. Vaybrama NV, 1980.
  36. The rumors were wrong. Rafael Arles Ramirez, who promoted B. Traven's books in Mexico, admitted in 1956 that he invented and circulated the story about the award himself to increase interest in the writer's books
  37. Because of the progressive deafness, Croves underwent an operation in Berlin as early as 1959.
  38. Different sources give different dates of the announcement of the information, which is discussed in the following. See the article by Tapio Helen.
  39. Timothy Heyman: El triunfo de Traven. In: Letras Libres. May 2, 2019, Retrieved May 9, 2019 (Spanish).
  40. ^ Ange-Dominique Bouzet: La novelle piste Traven, in Liberation , December 13, 1990
  41. http://www.frfly.com/esp/figueroa/figueroa_todo.htm
  42. ^ Karl S. Guthke: Was B. Traven Walther Rathenau's half-brother? In: Schweizer Monatshefte 71, pp. 372–378
  43. ^ Karl S. Guthe: Was B. Traven Walther Rathenau's half-brother? In: Swiss monthly books 71, p. 375.
  44. ^ Message from the Walther Rathenau Society | No. 9 | April 1999
  45. a b Frank Nordhausen: The stranger in the Calle Mississippi. In: Berliner Zeitung . March 11, 2000.
  46. a b c Peter Neuhauser: The man who calls himself B. Traven. In: Zeit Online . May 12, 1967. Retrieved January 6, 2015 .
  47. Heidemann also described his research in the book Postlagernd Tampico - The adventurous search for B. Traven. Blanvalet, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7645-0591-5 .
  48. TIME MOSAIC. In: zeit.de . January 29, 1960, accessed January 6, 2015 .
  49. The Rebellion of the Hanged. Progress film program No. 17/58. VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin (Ed.) Druck Berliner Druckerei, 1958. Mexican fictional film based on the novel by B. Traven with Pedro Armendariz and Ariadne in the leading roles.