B. Traven (Bruno Traven in some accounts) was the pen name of a presumably German novelist, whose real name, nationality, date and place of birth and details of biography are all subject to dispute. One of the few certainties about Traven's life is that he lived for years in Mexico, where the majority of his fiction is also set—including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1927), which was adapted for the Academy Award winning film of the same name in 1948.
Virtually every detail of Traven's life has been disputed and hotly debated. There were many hypotheses on the true identity of B. Traven, some of them wildly fantastic. Most agree that Traven was Ret Marut, a German stage actor and anarchist, who supposedly left Europe for Mexico around 1924, who had edited an anarchist newspaper in Germany called Der Zielgelbrenner [The Brickburner] and who himself possibly operated under the same pseudonym.
Some researchers further argue that Marut/Traven's real name was Otto Feige and that he was born in Schwiebus in Brandenburg, modern day Świebodzin in Poland. B. Traven in Mexico is also connected with the names of Berick Traven Torsvan and Hal Croves, both of whom appeared and acted in different periods of the writer's life. Both, however, denied being Traven and claimed that they were his literary agents only, representing him in contacts with his publishers.
B. Traven is the author of twelve novels, one book of reportage and several short stories, in which the sensational and adventure subjects combine with a critical attitude towards capitalism. B. Traven's best known works include the novels The Death Ship from 1926, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1927 (filmed in 1948 by John Huston), and the so-called "Jungle Novels," also known as the Caoba cyclus (from the Spanish word caoba, meaning mahogany). The Jungle Novels are a group of six novels (including The Carreta and Government), published in the years 1930–1939 and set among Mexican Indians just before and during the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. B. Traven's novels and short stories became very popular as early as the interwar period and retained this popularity after the Second World War; they were also translated into many languages. Most of B. Traven's books were published in German first and their English editions appeared later; nevertheless the author always claimed that the English versions were the original ones and that the German versions were only their translations. This claim is not taken seriously.