Book 40: A book you should have read in school and didn’t, Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven
To be fair, I actually wanted to read this novel, but the class I was taking ran out of time to cover the material in this novel, so it ended up sitting on my bookshelf the past three years. I had every intention of reading it, but it kept getting moved to the bottom of the list. I am so thankful that I finally did get to read it, though I wish I could have studied this in the context of the class I was taking at the time it was assigned to me. Better late than never I suppose! Let’s dive in to the review.
Hold on to your hats, folks! B. Traven’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre takes readers on a gritty adventure complete with bandits, shootouts, and treasure. Traven’s prose is reminiscent of Hemingway and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. It flows smoothly, almost like poetry. He creates vivid descriptive landscapes with effortless prose, and manages to capture the complicated nature of man at his best and worst moments. Although his characters lead simple lives, they illustrate the complexity of human relationships and connections.
The story takes place in 1920s Mexico. Three destitute American men are wandering the city, searching for whatever scraps they can find to survive. Unable to find honest work for quite some time, the three men decide to pool their very limited resources together and take their chances getting rich prospecting for gold. The adventures begin as they set out to stake their claim, but the perils are numerous–not just threats from bandits, natives, or even nature itself, but from the monsters that lie deep within, hiding inside the minds of the three partners. Who will make it out alive? Will the Sierra Madre surrender her treasure? Are any of these men worthy of it? This is a read that will definitely keep you riveted as you walk alongside these men facing danger and destruction on nearly every page. Traven excellently portrays the breakdown of a society with little resources and numerous people, and the horror of living in a world where you can’t trust anyone, even yourself.