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The Death Ship Paperback – September 1, 1991

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The greatest of Traven's works, it is a good-humored but devastating attack on bureaucracy and the state.” —Los Angeles Times

Language Notes

Text: English
Original Language: German
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; Revised edition edition (September 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556521103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556521102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This novel begins as an almost-humorous tale of a man trapped in a bureaucratic web, then advances to an adventure on the high seas. A U.S. merchant sailor finds himself stranded in 1920's Europe without a passport or his seaman's card after his ship leaves without him (his documents are aboard the ship). Without his ID he finds himself an outcast, an unwelcome vagabond that ships won't hire, nations don't want, and whom U.S. Consuls brush off. Broke, stranded and desperate, he eventually finds work aboard the Yorikke. That vessel is called a death ship for its dangerous hard work, meager pay, and atrocious conditions. Our hero can only hope that the Yorikke will eventually set anchor in a U.S. port - but that could take months or years. There is a certain Franz Kafka/Twilight Zone quality to this story of a little man trapped by an unfair system. I felt the novel story got better in the second half, as our friend adjusts to his difficult situation only to find himself in great danger.

Chicago-born author B. Traven (1890-1969) lived secretly, wrote readable prose, and didn't hide his contempt for the effects of government rules and unregulated capitalism on ordinary people. This story doesn't match his TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, but it makes for a solid read.
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Format: Paperback
B. Traven is unquestionably one of the most fascinating writers of the 20th century. For decades nothing was known about him except rumor, and his exact identity was shrouded in confusion and mystery. It was not even known for certain what language he wrote in (it turned out to be German). When John Huston was making the film version of Traven's THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, Traven declined to visit the set, sending a friend instead. After Traven's death the first known photos of Traven were made public, and Huston recognized Traven as the so-called friend, who was using yet another of his many aliases (of which B. Traven was but one). Anyone interested in learning more about the man who was the most mysterious author of the century should consult Wyatt's THE SECRET OF SIERRA MADRE: THE MAN WHO WAS B. TRAVEN.
THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE is a classic, but this novel may be even better. A man without a passport, a crime in post WW I Europe, is forced to take a job on an ancient steamer (the narrator suggests it was old when the Greeks and Romans ruled the Mediterranean). The result is a nightmarish descent into hell and one of the most unforgetable masterpieces of the century.
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Format: Paperback
Imagine your very worst nightmare; you have lost absolutely all references to your identity and are displaced thousands of miles from any contact with anyone who would be able to positively identify you. Since you are sort of a drifter to begin with, your problem is compounded. You have no money. You are kicked out of a few countries, decide that life is just too good for you in another country and that moreover you long to return to work at your profession, that of a sailor. A weird ship takes you on and now you can't get off it.
This a story the likes of which you will probably never come across again. It is weird, the writing is vivid, and you become the doomed sailor reading it. You might not think the story the best you've ever read, hardly so, but you certainly wont long forget this one.
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Format: Paperback
Manual labor. That's what I think of most of all when I think of B. Traven's The Death Ship. I actually read the majority of this book during break periods while working a manual labor job. Every time that my bones ached, I thought about the horrors of the Death Ship and the determinism in the face of certain doom; a real man is measured by his will and his strength.
B. Traven's prose is terrific, unpretensious, and profound. The Death ship tells the story of an American salior who becomes an outcast in a world indifferent to the circumstances of the little people. The crew of the ship, facing the possibility of death, starvation, and reside in squalid living conditions, show more humanity and honor than any pencil pusher behind a desk whose power and influences have condemned the honest man to a life of torture; they no longer fear hell, but at the same time, they embrace their situations with a fortitude that expresses a savage peotry. This novel is not to be missed by anyone that considers themselves serious about literature.
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Format: Paperback
Just finished reading this book for the third time. Traven's writing style is clear, harsh and as vivid as fireworks. You can feel sparks fly off every page. Man, I wish I could write even half as well as he does. If you ever want to feel as angry as an anarchist over the human injustice in this world, read this book. Plus it's a great story. I can't do it justice.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read "Government" by B. Traven and was very impressed. Then the same friend that gave me that book said to buy this one. I didn't think Traven could do better but this book was it. His storytelling is some of the best ever. From the descriptions of border crossing tribulations to the weird snake dance to get past a steaming pipe and to eating the rations off a marooned ship Traven does well. Unfortunately, but amazingly you can almost smell the disgusting bowels of the death ship because it is so well written. No movie could even do justice to this book as Traven helps you see, feel, smell and taste the experience. Supremo!
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