Best 1926 Adventures (4)
March 8, 2016
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1926 adventure novels. Happy 90th anniversary!
B. Traven’s sea-going adventure Das Totenschiff (Death Ship; English translation, 1934).
When his ship leaves without him, Gerard Gales, an American merchant seamen, finds himself stranded in Antwerp without passport or working papers. He is repeatedly arrested and deported from one country to another, until — broke and desperate — he finds work on a decrepit cargo ship crewed entirely by undocumented, exploited workers from around the world. Soon enough, he realizes that the Yorikke is a “death ship” — a boat so decrepit that it is worth more to its heartless owners overinsured and sunk than afloat. Despite the squalor of their living and working conditions, and the possibility of starvation or death, the ship’s crew embrace their situation with admirable courage and resilience. A fiery critique of, first, bureaucratic authority and, later, abusive labor practices.
Fun fact: “B. Traven” was the pseudonym of a German novelist who — one assumes, based on the plots of his other books, including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1927) — spent some years living in Mexico. Many believe that Traven was Ret Marut, a German stage actor and anarchist, who reportedly left Europe for Mexico around 1924.
Let me know if I’ve missed any 1926 adventures that you particularly admire.