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The Death Ship

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  703 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
The Death Ship tells the story of an American sailor, stateless and penniless because he has lost his passport, who is harassed by police and hounded across Europe until he finds an 'illegal' job shoveling coal in the hold of a steamer bound for destruction.

The Death Ship is the first of B. Traven's politically charged novels about life among the downtrodden, which have so
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 1991 by Chicago Review Press (first published 1926)
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Nov 09, 2007 Ramorx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people of good constitution.
O my fucking christ, this is the most miserable, insufferable book I have ever read. I could only continue reading because its fucking brilliant, and Traven is a genius.
The first part is an occassionally amusing odyssey of a man without a passport dealing with authorities, but mostly its just an painful journey of the absurd into the depths of bureaucratic and legal inanity.
The second part of the book is where it gets really gruesome. Mr No-passport gets a job working in the bowels of the Deat
Apr 24, 2012 Maureen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
b. traven played me like a fiddle with this book. i found myself muttering darkly about the bloodless bureaucracy that runs the world, piling up money that will never been seen by the poor, and the honest workers who do their best to stay afloat. it is this kind of rhetoric that stoked my fire:

"There is no getting used to pain and suffering. You become only hard-boiled, and you lose a certain capacity to be impressed by feelings. Yet no human being will ever become used to sufferings to such an
Jan 17, 2015 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like sea stories, and I like stories about people who are down on their luck and downtrodden, so yeah, I was bound to like this. Some complain that it gets boring in the middle with a lot of talk about furnaces (hi, Maureen!) and boilers and such, and there definitely is a lot of time spent on the workaday drudgery of the firemen and coal-drags working in the stoke-hold of the titular ship, but I felt this was there for a reason. Traven succeeds in making you feel the backbreaking toil, the fi ...more
Abrar Alarjan
Oct 24, 2015 Abrar Alarjan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
بحار ينزل إلى مرفئ وتذهب سفينته عنه وجواز وأوراقه الثبوتية في تلك السفينة ومن ثم يصف الصعوبات التي واجهها ليكون بحّارًا من جديد وعندما يجدُ سفينة آُخرى
تُشغله عاملاً لديها يخساره هو وصديقه بسبب الإختطاف
الذي صار لهما فيعملان على سفينة الأنجليزية يحاول قبطانها أن يغرقها

أسلوب ترافن كوميدي مأساوي يدفعك للضحك والبكاء على المصيبة الحاصلة لك

ومن ثم إن ترافن يناقش قضية مُهمة وهي عدم وجود هوية لمرء وأن العيش بلا هوية أمر مُتعب جدًا وهذا ما تناقشه الراوية بالإضافة إلى السيادية التي تحصل من خدام الدولة أ
Aug 19, 2015 Dr.Abdulkarem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
أنها رواية مؤلمة... زمن الحدود، وجوازات السفر، والتأشيرات.... ليست الحروب مشكلة؛ بقدر ما قد ينجم من آثار؛ عن تلك الحروب....
الحروب العالمية؛ صنعت الحدود، وقيدت حريات البشر... لم يعودوا كالحشرات؛ يطيروا أينما أرادوا... فقط؛ لأجل أن تفرض الدول همنتها؛ على هذا الإنسان..
رواية؛ عن البحث؛ أولاً؛ عن بطاقة بحار... ثم عن جواز سفر؛ لمن هو بدون جنسية... لأنه لا يملك وثيقة؛ تُبت ميلاده، أو جنسيته... فصار؛ بلا هوية، وبلا وطن....
رحلة رجل؛ أضاع بطاقة عمله؛ فلزمه أن يتنقل؛ من مكان إلى مكان؛ تمسكاً بالحياة، ورغب
kostas  vamvoukakis
Feb 05, 2016 kostas vamvoukakis rated it it was amazing
πολύ δυνατό, σκληρό και μίζερο...
Никола Ременски
Great. Fast-read, intelligent book.


Personally, I think that this book has two "parts", well that this book is divided in two essentially different parts. First part has focus on the social aspects of that time, and that aspect is same, even now. Second part is more personal, and actually moves focus from wider picture to little society of the Yorikke, Yorikke's crew, and especially at main protagonist.

The term death ship refers to boat which is worth more sunk than it w
aljouharah altheeyb
Feb 26, 2016 aljouharah altheeyb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
استذرف ذرف دمعة يابيبه أم ستنتظر دورك للدخول للمهجع ذي الأبيات المشؤومة التي حفرت عند مدخله؟
صحيح، تذكرت، لايمكنك فعل اي شيء، فأنت لاتملك أوراقا ثبوتية
Lauri Manner
Dec 31, 2013 Lauri Manner rated it really liked it
Takakannessa luki että tämä kirja on kuin "pannuhuoneiden Moby Dick". Sain 12-vuotiaana isoäidiltäni syntymäpäivälahjaksi Moby Dickin, ja jokainen sen lukuyritys on päättynyt jatkuvaan nukahteluun. Kuolemanlaiva sen sijaan tuli luettua aika lailla herkeämättä putkeen.

Kyseessä on umpianarkistinen seikkailukirja joka yhdistää lennokkaasti ja runsailla lapinlisillä kerrottua merimiesjuttua erittäin purevaan yhteiskunnalliseen satiiriin. Kertojana toimiva Gerard Gales on paperinsa hukannut merimies
Mar 05, 2016 Dan rated it liked it
There are quite a few things going in favor of this novel: it's funny, it doesn't romanticize the life of a high-seas sailor, it has a playfully Kafkaesque view of governments and bureaucracy, and it has touches of the bizarre-absurd that are entertaining.

What the novel lacks, however, is a character - at least a human character; the Yorkiee is more fully realized than either our hero, Pipip (we don't even know his real name even when he says it's something else), or Stanislav. Both characters
Oct 01, 2013 Panagiotis rated it really liked it
The last time i caught my self searching for an epilogue that i knew it would not exist, just to find something that would make me feel better from what i had just read,was when i read 1984.

By far one of the most depressing books i have ever read, the death ship is the story of a man who unable to prove his own identity after a series of unfortunate events, has no other choice than to embarg οn a coffin ship, a ship where stranded people work as sailors, people with no home and no identity.

Jan 14, 2009 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, death
The death ship it is I am in,
All I have lost, nothing to win
So far off sunny New Orleans
So far off lovely Louisiana.
(from "Song of An American Sailor")

This was B. Traven's first novel, published in 1934, and it is my favorite of his works. It is a sea story unlike any other, being a story of men at sea as a metaphor for men against what Jack London infamously referred to as the "Iron Heel" of modern industrialism.
Gerard Gales misses his ship, the Tuscaloosa, in Antwerp and is picked up by the
Feb 05, 2016 Blair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was interested in this as it was a strong part of the inspiration for the JJ Abrams/Doug Dorst novel S. (with all of its additional elements). Traven was a mysterious figure and this novel, dating from the 1930s, is a mysterious work. It has strong shades of Kafka as the narrator battles with bureaucracy through the first part of the novel before he finds himself on the death ship of the title, a torturous vessel that seems to have lasted millennia. The descriptions of life on board the ship a ...more
فاطمة زيد
Mar 14, 2016 فاطمة زيد rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"لكنه لم يظهر، لم أعد أراه فقد أخذه القبطان الكبير معه حتى دون هوية ولا بطاقة بحار ولا جواز سفر، وقال له : تعال يا ستانيسلاف كوسلوفسكي، تعال فأنا سأكتب اسمك بكل شرف واحترام في سجل السفينة لتسافر معنا في رحلة بعيدة، هيا اذهب إلى المهجع، لكن هلا قرأت أولا المكتوب أعلى بابه؟ .
وستانيسلاف يجيب : نعم يا سيدي،نعم. "
Aug 18, 2008 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
B. Traven is the author of the book behind the famous movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He also authored a series of books I've read, on the Mexican revolution, that are now out of print. B. Traven is a mysterious personality who has been identified as being Rett Marue a German national. Whatever he was, this book is memorable as a Kafka-esque tale of a stateless sailor who is tossed across national borders and ends up on a "death ship" with the job of stoker in a hellish engine room. I've rea ...more
Jul 11, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent -- I can see that the middle section might be a bit of an ordeal for some readers, and I'll cop to needing the occasional side-trip into something a bit lighter. But Traven keeps the energy high at all times, and I found myself engaged throughout.
Rich Martin
Sep 21, 2008 Rich Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
B. Traven may be the most mysterious author of all time, at least in modern days. No one knows who he was, though most think he lived in Germany and was forced to live because of political turbulence. Some think he was more than one person. Whatever, he wrote some great stuff. "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is a terrific book and a great movie. (Bogie was a perfect villain.) But "Death Ship" might be better. Apparently Traven, whoever he was, worked on a ship that was marked for destruction by t ...more
Mike Ceballos
B Traven es un autor misterioso, quizás un escritor tímido que no gusta de recibir la atención del público, o simplemente, alguien que nunca creyó que sus novelas pudieran ser reconocidas por el público lector. Sea como fuere, Traven es un escritor que entendió y retrato fielmente, la idiosincracia del mexicano: usos y costumbres. En sus cuentos ("Canasta de Cuentos Mexicanos") retrata de manera cómica, nuestra forma de ser en aspectos cotidianos, obra por la cual es reconocido en México y mucha ...more
Nov 02, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Um, wow. How had I never heard of Traven before? Apparently he's a big deal... and I now see why. I would not have expected to love a novel about sailors and bureaucracy as much as I did this book. A brilliant novel of the interwar period, scathing socioeconomic critique, hilarious and heartbreaking. And voice? This book has got it.
Mar 07, 2007 ElizaBeth rated it liked it
This book starts well and ends well, but a long part of the middle is just really, really boring. (Sorry Adam, I know you love it.)
Sep 28, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the unusual
Recommended to David by: ?? WSJ?
The first novel by the mysterious B. Traven. You could talk me into 4.5 stars for this. Quite memorable, which always is a good sign for me.

Although written 85+ years ago, much about it is very modern. Very anarchistic, very graphic, often funny, although ultimately grim. A biting commentary on the human wreckage caused by the turmoil (political and otherwise) after World War One. Set me off on a quest for more B. Traven.

Followed this up with "German Novelists of the Weimar Republic," which has
M.R. Dowsing
Nov 01, 2015 M.R. Dowsing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not quite what I expected, this... It's actually about the fate of people who were left stateless when borders were redrawn and passports introduced after WW1. Particularly for sailors left stranded in a foreign port without papers, this meant prison, deportation or a job on a "death ship" - a ship which has been selected to be sunk at a convenient time in order to collect the insurance, meaning that facilities on board are the bare minimum required for survival. The detailed description of the ...more
Apr 30, 2013 Patty rated it it was amazing
looks like i have a new favorite.
Aug 05, 2013 1.1 rated it it was amazing
The best seafaring story Conrad never wrote. Truly an astounding, moving, deeply insightful and often intensely funny novel. It holds all of its qualities every time I read it, and by the next go-through in a few years it will doubtless strike me as much as it ever has. The use of language isn't 'perfect' in all cases but it sounds perfectly right. It's not exactly PC but I can't imagine this book offending anyone except people who deserve a good offending. The plot is wonderfully, fatally absur ...more
Oct 01, 2013 wally rated it really liked it
Shelves: time-passages, traven
1st from taven for me.

the death ship, the story of an american sailor , b. traven, 1934, forward by john anthony west, saugerties, new york, april, 1991

there is song of an american sailor on a white page...forget the name of those things...stanzas? i dunno. the thing is 12-lines long, broken up into 3 groups of 4. ooga booga.

now stop that crying, honey dear,
the jackson square remains still here
in sunny new orleans
in lovely louisiana

she thinks me buried in the sea,
no longer does she wait for m
Steve Evans
Dec 21, 2013 Steve Evans rated it really liked it
Traven's first best-seller, written in Mexico after he shipped up there in the 1920s. The first half is quite amusing actually as the narrator slyly pokes fun both at his own fecklessness and bureaucracy; the second half goes grim and gets down to the nitty-gritty of 20th century life as the author saw it.

Traven's identity was a puzzle even long after he died. The discovery that he was a German national who concocted a variety of identities to fend off the curious had to wait till then. His wido
Nick Jones
Although I took three books on holiday, this, in a 1934 edition translated from the German by Eric Sutton, was on the bookshelves of the house I was staying at...and we should always read other people’s books, so I read it. I had previously read B. Traven’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is fun but its main interest is that it provided the source of the film. And, overall, Traven seems more interesting as an enigmatic legend than as a writer. I hadn’t even heard of The Death Ship. It is ...more
j to the muthafuckin R
Oct 26, 2009 j to the muthafuckin R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Some quotes from the book:

"No use to preach to the working-man courtesy & politeness when at the same time the working-man is not given working conditions under which he can stay polite and soft-mannered."

"Morals are taught & preached not for the sake of heaven, but to assist those people on earth who have everything they need & more to retain their possessions & to help them to accumulate still more. Morals is the butter for those who have no bread."

"The regular work on the Yori
Sep 27, 2012 Clark rated it really liked it
Shelves: made-ups
Ever be talking about some band or something that has long since kicked the bucket as far as modern cool goes, like, "Dude, yeah, I can't listen to 'em now or anything but The Pixies were my shit back when I was fifteen." but then you go home and on the right night you throw on the Come On Pilgrim LP and it's totally just as good as it was when you were a pissed off high school kid and you're singing along and getting this totally weird bittersweet-but-more-on-the-sweet-side feeling? Ever done t ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Can't do much about the title, I'm afraid, but it's a worthy companion to Sierra Madre. Captures the moment after WWI with compassion. Relevant even today as we wrestle with some of the same issues: what to do with undocumented immigrants. The ending is designed more for opening discussions, not settling them. Still, Traven keeps it interesting with very little filler material.
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B. Traven (February, 1882? – March 26, 1969?) was the pen name of a 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 his best-known work, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1927), which was adapted as ...more
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“it would have been a rare thing anyhow for an official to come upon an idea that is not provided for in the regulations.” 3 likes
“don't ever believe that kings were done with when the fathers of the country made a revolution.” 2 likes
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