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Author of "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and other popular novels about Mexico, B. Traven surrounded his identity with mysteries designed to confound biographers. Now Heidi Zogbaum has produced a study of this enigmatic yet important author, linking his oeuvre with both Mexican and German politics of the 1920s and 1930s. Most previous works on Traven have been either literary studies or mere attempts to establish his identity. Past theories, for example, have labelled him the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II or of Mexican President, Adolfo Lopez Mateos. Dr Zogbaum, however, systematically explores for the first time Traven's fascination with the great political episodes of his day. The German writer who would call himself B. Traven came to Mexico in 1924, drawn like many other left-wing intellectuals by the country's revolutionary experiment. In the following years he wrote novels and short stories that initially glorified, then criticized, the country's economic and political systems. His huge output introduced German, British and US audiences to recent developments in Mexico and to the country's rural workers, whose exploitation continued nearly unchecked under the new regime. The book is organized chronologically, taking the reader through Traven's career from his arrival in Mexico to his final writings in 1940. In the course of her analysis, Dr Zogbaum provides detailed discussions of all of Traven's major novels, showing how Mexican history inspired him and shaped his works. In addition, this study reveals how events in Germany, where Traven's primary audience lived, affected his writing. While entertaining his readers, Traven sought also to further their political education, using events in Mexico as starting points for commentary on Hitler's dictatorship. Finally, Dr Zogbaum establishes the value of Traven's works as historical sources documenting the notorious logging trade of southern Mexico. Scholars of modern German literature and proletarian fiction should find this volume useful. However, its treatment of Traven in the context of contemporary politics should make this book an equally useful source for anyone interested in revolutionary Mexico and the far-reaching economic problems the country still faces.
Scholarly Resources Inc.,U.S.
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