Friday, May 15, 2015


I greatly enjoyed this collection of short stories by the mysterious B. Traven.

All of the stories in this collection are set in Mexico at various periods and most of them involve the lives of the native Indians.

The title story The Night Visitor is a ghost story about an ancient Aztec king who visits an expatriate American living in the jungle.  Effective Medicine is about another expatriate American who is asked by an Indian to help him when the Indian's wife runs off with another man.  Assembly Line is about a wealthy American businessman who thinks he has figured out a way to get rich off of the home-made crafts of a poor Mexican peasant artisan.  The Cattle Drive is self-explanatory.  When the Priest Is Not at Home is a comic story about the real story behind a miracle which is reported in a small Mexican village while the parish priest is away from home.  Midnight Call is another story about an expatriate American and the visit he receives from banditos during the middle of the night.  A New God Was Born takes us back to the times of the Conquistador Hernando Cortez and the gift he leaves for an isolated group of Indians who live deep in the jungle of Central America.  Friendship is about the relationship between a man and a stray dog.  Conversion of Some Indians is also set during period of the Spanish conquest of the New World and involves the efforts of a Catholic missionary to convert the Indians.  Macario is a charming folk tale about a man whose dream of a life time is to eat a whole roast Turkey with all the trimmings all by himself.

There is a whole library of literature about who B. Traven really was.  The elusive B. Traven began publishing stories and novels, mostly set in Mexico, in Germany during the 1920s.  Scholarly opinion is pretty much agreed today that B. Traven was the pen name adopted by Ret Marut (also probably a false name) who was a Communist and sometime Anarchist who was a part of the short lived Bavarian Soviet Republic which came to power for a very short time in 1919.  Fleeing from Germany, Marut was briefly imprisoned as an undocumented alien in England and eventually wound up in Mexico where he went by various names.  For many years, Traven lived in Mexico under the assumed name Hal Croves.  Hal Croves died in 1969.  Traven's most famous work is the novel
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre which was the basis for a film directed by John Huston which starred Humphrey Bogart.

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