Tuesday, January 26, 2010

B. Traven

A kindly reader pointed out that though I had mentioned B. Traven several times, I had not included him in the list of books you should read, so I added the following entry:

B. Traven, all. You are probably familiar with at least one of B. Traven's novels, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, through seeing John Huston's film version, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. This is a wonderful novel that is not taught in schools because of the author's politics. The movie tracks the novel almost scene for scene. My favorite among B. Traven's books, however, is The Rebellion of the Hanged, about mahogany loggers in Chiapas.

B. Traven was an anarchist writer who suddenly appeared in Mexico City during the Thirties -- about twenty years after Jack London's "death" in 1916. But The Death Ship was published in 1926. London died leaving his last novel, The Assassination Bureau, unfinished. Its plot turns on an "organization" that will kill anyone for a price. Then someone takes out a contract on its founder, who has to disappear. I'm not alone in thinking that B. Traven might have been Jack London; the best argument against this theory is that B. Traven writes so much better.

Most Americans have managed to overlook the notion that Jack London was a Socialist -- a Red! -- which is why he was so popular in Soviet Russia. but often that can be the first step toward the core belief of anarchism: that the government is your enemy. Theoretically the "free press" will protect us from the worst crimes of out government. And that may have been true while the oress was still reporting on the government and its wars, back in the good old days before the newspaper corporations began deriving most of their income from the television stations they own. TV broadcasters don't enjoy freedom of the press -- they have what is called the fairness doctrine instead -- and their license to broadcast anything at all is periodically reviewed (and thus is threatened) by the government. So it's really no surprise that what we still call the "news" now focuses more attention on the current Britney than it does to who benefits from the Obaminable folly of fighting a war at the crossroads of nowhere in Central Asia.

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