Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Bridge in the Jungle by B Traven

We love mysteries and even when the mystery is solved we are inclined to doubt the solution. The mystery of B Traven is such an open and we leave it open case.
B Traven - a mystery solved
is a fascinating documentary from 1978. It's the great old style B.B.C. Documentary with Robert Robinson in what looks suspiciously like a bush jacket or a safari shirt, some sort of intrepid tailoring anyway. He speaks slowly and projects a lot in foreign speak to a number of people who knew B Traven in his various avatars.

Other B Traven musing is to be had in a witty story by Rudolfo A. Anaya B Traven is alive and well in Cuernavaca available complete at story

One of the people he meets is of course John Huston who filmed The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Reading the book I find that famous piece of dialogue practically unchanged but put in the mouth of Curtin rather than Dobbs:
'All right,' Curtain shouted back, 'If you are the police where are your badges? Let's see them.
'Badges, to god dammed hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don't need badges, I don't have to show you any stinking badges, you god-dammed cabron and ching' tu madre.

I imagine that the reason that I don't see B Traven in any of the barrows that I frequent is that they have been read to bits. I found his novel The Bridge in the Jungle from 1928,(English publication in 1938,) in a Penguin 1975 reprint. B Traven covers are good. Here's a selection of them from
just seeds

I haven't quite finished The Treasure yet but I would say as a novel The Bridge is the better of the two. The construction is tighter, less yarny without side-trips here and there which the former is subject to. A hard bitten prospector who goes after what the jungle will provide, gems, gold,crocodile hides, medicinal plants, meets up with another gringo who is pump master in a village. There is to be a fiesta and while they wait for the music to begin one of the kids that have been hanging about the bridge goes missing. The fear is that he , though a good swimmer has fallen into the water and getting into difficulties may have drowned. So they drag and probe a little to satisfy the natural search methods that must first be utilised before the humility before the supernatural can come into play. An old Indian who knows the way of these things takes command and looks for a thick candle. Such candles are hard to find but someone offers what the old 'brujo' hardly hoped for.

'A consecrated one' the old Indian gasped. 'A consecrated one, a real consecrated one! Woman be thanked, that's exactly the very one I am looking for. Now we can't fail. Bring it! Quick! Hurry! Please let me have that candle, senora!'

He fixes the candle,a thick one, like the sort the about to be confirmed carry in procession, to the precise centre of a board and sets it off in the river the idea being that the calling to the light of the spirit of the dead child trapped in the river will bring the candle to hover over the spot. Here is where Koves/Traven brings to bear the ethnological lore that he gained from his expeditions to the jungles of Southern Mexico. But his respect is not that one might have for a reliable native informant, it is their dignity before the rigours of life that has him abandon observation and become immersed in the mystery.

He brings too that element of low comedy that ameliorates the funeral, Taintgonnarainnomo as suitable music for the ragged process to the grave. Which, really, it is.

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