Home Page | Photo - Curitiba | Photo - various | Photo - Nov/Dec 2002 | Guestbook/Favorite Links Page | Bertold Brecht | About Page | Custom4 Page  



Indeed I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
And he who walks calmly across the street,
Is he not out of reach of his friends
In trouble?

It is true: I earn my living
But, believe me, it is only an accident.
Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill.
By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me
I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry
And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would gladly be wise.
The old books tell us what wisdom is:
Avoid the strife of the world
Live out your little time
Fearing no one
Using no violence
Returning good for evil --
Not fulfillment of desire but forgetfulness
Passes for wisdom.
I can do none of this:
Indeed I live in the dark ages!


I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger ruled.
I came among men in a time of uprising
And I revolted with them.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

I ate my food between massacres.
The shadow of murder lay upon my sleep.
And when I loved, I loved with indifference.
I looked upon nature with impatience.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

In my time streets led to the quicksand.
Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.


You, who shall emerge from the flood
In which we are sinking,
Think --
When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also of the dark time
That brought them forth.

For we went,changing our country more often than our shoes.
In the class war, despairing
When there was only injustice and no resistance.

For we knew only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

But you, when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do no judge us
Too harshly.

translated by H. R. Hays


"The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, takes no part in political life. He doesn't seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself on his political ignorance, sticks out his chest and says he hates politics. He doesn't know, the imbecile, that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and, worst of all, corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitive multinational corporations."

And I Always Thought

And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone's heart must be torn to shreds.
That you'll go down if you don't stand up for yourself
Surely you see that.


On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating
What a strain it is to be evil.


Brecht, Bertolt (1898-1956), the most influential German dramatist and theoretician of the theater in the 20th century. Also a poet of formidable gifts and considerable output, Brecht first attracted attention in the Berlin of the 1920s as the author of provocative plays that challenged the tenets of traditional theater. In the 1950s he became an internationally acclaimed playwright and director through productions of his plays by the Berliner Ensemble, a company based in East Berlin and headed by his wife, actor Helene Weigel.

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht was born in Augsburg, Bavaria. Raised in a comfortable middle-class home, he attended secondary school in Augsburg and studied briefly at the University of Munich. In 1924 he gained a foothold in the cultural metropolis of Berlin as an assistant dramaturge (drama specialist) at the Deutsches Theater. He achieved enormous popular success following the 1928 premiere of his collaborative effort with German composer Kurt Weill, Die Dreigroschenoper (published 1928; translated as The Threepenny Opera, 1964). Forced to flee Germany in 1933 because of his leftist political beliefs (he had become a convert to the socioeconomic theories of Karl Marx) and opposition to the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, Brecht and his family spent 14 years in exile in Scandinavia and the United States. Although he tried hard to become established in the United States, Brecht failed to make a breakthrough either as a scriptwriter in Hollywood, California, or as a playwright on Broadway. He returned to Europe in 1947. Two years later he moved to East Berlin and remained there until his death.

Brecht's first major play, Baal (1922; translated 1964), features a materialistic and promiscuous poet, the opposite of the view then in vogue of the artist as a visionary. Baal and his next play, Trommeln in der Nacht (1922; Drums in the Night, 1966), reject idealism in favor of crass individualism. Brecht turn to Marxism resulted in plays that indicted capitalism. In Die heilige Johanna der Schlachth (1932; St. Joan of the Stockyards, 1956), a modern-day Joan of Arc advocates the use of force in the fight against exploitation of workers. The austere and controversial Lehrstck (learning play) titled Die Maahme (1930-1931; The Measures Taken, 1960) appeals to the spectators' reasoning faculties rather than to their emotions. The play takes the form of a stylized trial to demonstrate the errors in political thought and behavior for which a young Communist Party member has been liquidated.

Brecht's narrative style, which he called epic theater, was directed against the illusion created by traditional theater of witnessing a slice of life. Instead, Brecht encouraged spectators to watch events on stage dispassionately and to reach their own conclusions. To prevent spectators from becoming emotionally involved with a play and identifying with its characters, Brecht used a variety of techniques. Notable among them was the Verfremdungseffekt (alienation or estrangement effect), which was achieved through such devices as choosing (for German audiences) unfamiliar settings, interrupting the action with songs, and announcing the contents of each scene through posters. Brecht temporarily returned to a more traditional dramatic mode in Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches (1941; The Private Life of the Master Race, 1944), an attack on the fascist government of Germany under Hitler.
Around 1940 Brecht began writing the dramas for which he is primarily known today; some of these were produced or published first in English, then in German. Leben des Galilei (1955; Galileo, 1947) deals with the responsibility of the intellectual to defend his or her beliefs in the face of opposition from established authorities, in Galileo case the Roman Catholic Church. The antiwar play Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (written 1937; first produced 1941; Mother Courage and Her Children, 1941) shows an indomitable mother figure who misguidedly seeks to profit from war but loses her children instead. In Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (written 1938-1940; first produced 1948; 1943;The Good Woman of Setzuan, 1948), which Brecht called a parable play, a kindhearted prostitute is forced to disguise herself as her ruthless male cousin and exploit others in order to survive. In Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (written 1944-1945; first produced 1943; The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 1948) a singer-narrator directs and comments on the poetic exploration of maternal sacrifice and justice.

Brecht's greatest achievement is, without doubt, his contribution to the repertory of the international theater. Apart from his greatest theatrical hit, The Threepenny Opera, which had a seven-year run in New York City in the 1950s, he provided the stage with a rich array of texts. They range from early dramas, infused with his rebellious spirit, to his mature plays that seek to promote the prospect of a better world. Brecht, who formulated his theory of epic theater in Kleines Organon das Theater (1948; A Short Organum for the Theatre, 1964), also achieved renown as a theoretician. Perceived as a liberating influence in South America and East Asia, Brechtian theater has often been declared outmoded by critics in Europe and North America. But no serious director can ignore Brecht, and his plays continue to be produced all over the world.

"Brecht, Bertolt," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2002 1997-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.