B. Traven 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. A rare certainty is that B. Traven lived much of his life in Mexico, where the majority of his fiction is also set—including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 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. There are also reasons to believe that Marut/Traven's real name was Otto Feige and that he was born in Schwiebus in Brandenburg, modern day ?wiebodzin in Poland. B. Traven in Mexico is also connected with 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, betraying the socialist and even anarchist sympathies of the writer. B. Traven's best known works include the novels The Death Ship from 1926 and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1927, in 1948 filmed by John Huston, and the so-called Jungle Novels, also known as the Caoba cyclus, a group of six novels, published in the years 1930–1939, 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.