Sunday, December 21, 2008


Read B. Traven's The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Not bad, but the truly exciting parts were weaker than I had expected or hoped for. The book has a good reputation. I started skim-reading after a while, which is not a good sign, as long sections lost my interest. Basically the story is about three American prospectors (a cagey old veteran and two neophytes), who search for an abandoned mine and scratch out a decent haul of gold. The work and life is hard in the backcounty, and the old guy keeps them from making too many really bad mistakes. They are beset by bandits and other risks to their fortune. There is a lot of criticism of the Catholic church, the government, and Mexicans in general, especially the poorer ones. Desperados and rebels rule the countryside. His several asides in the book, such as the description of a train robbery and massacre, and stories about several lost mines, were very interesting.

Traven was a mysterious writer; this is his pseudonym, and I am not sure there is even good consensus as to who he really was. Some say a German writer who was chased out of Europe and didn't want anyone to know where he was, and some say it was a scam of the author's publicist. Either way, his stories got a lot of attention and they have a following.

I think it is most interesting in describing the Mexico of that period, the racism of the Europeans and Americans, the turmoil in the backcountry, the depresssion-era economic travails, the gold lust and how it affects people. There is the classic line, "we don't need no stinking badges." I definitely will have to pick up and watch the classic movie sometime.

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