Email this review


First published in Germany in 1926 but only now being republished here 43 years later, The Cotton-Pickers is a welcome short early novel to add to the small but prestigious body of the reclusive author's work. (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Night Visitor & Other Stories, The Bridge in the Jungle.) Traven is a brilliant storyteller who satisfies at the action/adventure level while directing his theme at the subconscious. His main preoccupation has been with freedom and this early along is shown up in post-Revolutionary Mexico. Gales, a disingenuous reporter of the events he witnesses, is a youngish, ablebodied, always broke American on the bum earning his food from a series of temporary jobs--cotton-picker, oilfield extra, bakery worker, cattle drover. Wherever Gales goes, a strike or near-strike is likely to follow. The cotton farmer, holding his migrant pickers in thrall to a company store, is faced with losing his crop when the workers refuse to pick without a wage adjustment; at the bakery, a small-time entrepreneur skins pesos from waiters, musicians and bakers. Gales' reports include understated horror relieved by straightfaced humor and tragic circumstance slowly forced to reverse through human effort. Underlying the novel is an easy-to-understand handbook of how the down can be kept nearly out.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1969
Publisher: Hill & Wang