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English Brecht

Raymond Williams

16 July 1981
Collected Plays: Life of Galileo 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by Ralph Manheim, translated by John Willett.
Methuen, 264 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 413 39070 5
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Collected Plays: Mother Courage and her Children 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by Ralph Manheim and John Willett, translated by John Willett.
Methuen, 154 pp., £7.50, January 1980, 0 413 39780 7
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Collected Plays: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by John Willett and Ralph Manheim, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Methuen, 144 pp., £7.50, August 1981, 0 413 47270 1
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... Bert Brecht, the Communist poet and playwright, has become a cultural monument. Is it then not time, he might ask, to consider blowing him up? One of the problems is this kind of tough talk. A certain recklessness of language, a down-to-earth bluntness, has been widely received as his most valuable legacy. It is what makes him, some say, an essentially popular writer ...

Modern Brecht

Margot Heinemann

5 August 1982
Bertolt Brecht in America 
by James Lyon.
Princeton, 408 pp., £11, January 1981, 0 691 06443 1
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Bertolt BrechtPolitical Theory and Literary Practice 
edited by Betty Webber and Hubert Heinen.
Manchester, 208 pp., £15, February 1981, 0 7190 0806 9
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Brecht 
by Jan Needle and Peter Thomson.
Blackwell, 235 pp., £9, February 1981, 0 631 19610 2
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... Sacrilege sanctifies.’ Under this heading Brecht cheerfully sums up what happens to plays, like Shakespeare’s, that outlast their own time – and what may now be happening to his own: What keeps the classical plays alive is the use made of them, even if it’s misuse. In the schoolroom morals are squeezed out of them: in the theatre they provide the vehicles for self-seeking actors, ambitious Lord Chamberlains and profiteers out to make money from evening entertainments ...

He speaks too loud

David Blackbourn: Brecht

2 July 2014
Bertolt BrechtA Literary Life 
by Stephen Parker.
Bloomsbury, 704 pp., £30, February 2014, 978 1 4081 5562 2
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... In​ his Svendborg Poems, written in exile in Denmark in the 1930s, Brecht wrote: ‘In the dark times/Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing/About the dark times.’ His life was shaped by these dark times. He came of age during the First World War, became a successful writer in the years before Hitler’s rise to power, spent 16 years as an émigré, and returned to Berlin only to clash with the East German apparatchiks ...

Each Scene for Itself

David Edgar: The Brecht Centenary

4 March 1999
War Primer 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by John Willett.
Libris, 170 pp., £35, February 1998, 1 870352 21 1
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Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches 
by John Willett.
Methuen, 320 pp., £12.99, February 1998, 0 413 72310 0
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Brecht and Method 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 184 pp., £19, November 1998, 1 85984 809 5
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... The major contribution of the English theatre to last year’s Brecht centenary was Lee Hall’s dazzling version of Mr Puntila and His Man Matti, presented by the Right Size, a touring company led by the comic actors Sean Foley and Hamish McColl. Their prologue goes some way to explaining why the Anglophone response to the Brechtfest was so muted ...

Spaced Out

Terry Eagleton

24 April 1997
Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference 
by David Harvey.
Blackwell, 496 pp., £50, December 1996, 1 55786 680 5
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... time – or perhaps history – was fluid, burgeoning, open-ended. For a Modernist writer like Bertolt Brecht change in itself is a good, just as for Samuel Johnson change was in itself an evil. Bad things were reified products; good things were dynamically evolving processes. This piece of Romantic banality never went entirely unchallenged. If Pascal ...

Hi!

Michael Neve

20 October 1983
Flashbacks 
by Timothy Leary.
Heinemann, 397 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 434 40975 8
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Freud and Cocaine 
by E.M. Thornton.
Blond and Briggs, 340 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 0 85634 139 8
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Right-Wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females 
by Andrea Dworkin.
Women’s Press, 254 pp., £4.95, June 1983, 0 7043 3907 2
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Hidden Selves: Between Theory and Practice in Psychoanalysis 
by Masud Khan.
Hogarth, 204 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 7012 0547 4
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... rare is the expression ‘I don’t know,’ and to admit that arguing with (say) John Wesley, or Bertolt Brecht, or even – to be banal – Roger Scruton, would be a pretty grim business. Part of the reason for closure, or for manic pedagogy, must be political, in the widest sense of the word. Having launched a social campaign, or founded a project ...
20 October 1994
The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht 
by John Fuegi.
HarperCollins, 732 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 00 255386 4
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... I have never read a life like John Fuegi’s of Brecht. Revisionism doesn’t begin to describe it. This is dartboard stuff, effigy abuse, voodoo biography. If Fuegi could get inside the Dorotheenfriedhof, uproot Brecht’s jagged scalene headstone, dig through six feet of Brandenburg sand and a zinc coffin, and do something to the remains involving chicken heads, inverted crosses and black candles, I don’t doubt that he would ...

Angry or Evil?

Michael Wood: Brecht’s Poems

21 March 2019
The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht 
translated by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine.
Norton, 1286 pp., £35, December 2018, 978 0 87140 767 2
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... is sitting not only In your theatre, but also In the world. ‘I live​ in dark times,’ Brecht said, but he liked to believe the darkness would end. In the poem containing those words, written in the 1930s, he apologises to ‘those born after’, saying that Hatred, even of meanness Makes you ugly. Anger, even at injustice Makes your voice ...

Sempre Armani

John Harvey: Men’s fashion

7 May 1998
The Man of Fashion: Male Peacocks and Perfect Gentlemen 
by Colin McDowell.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £29.95, October 1997, 0 500 01797 2
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... of dress version of workwear (which, McDowell notes, ‘possesses true integrity and power’). Bertolt Brecht sits forward at a piano, close-cropped, young, in a close-fitting lapel-less leather jacket, and, with a fat capitalist’s cigar between his teeth, seems to be enjoying the slightly preposterous pantomime of his own fashion statement. Not ...

The Eerie One

Bee Wilson: Peter Lorre

23 March 2006
The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre 
by Stephen Youngkin.
Kentucky, 613 pp., $39.95, September 2005, 0 8131 2360 7
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... for work, Aufricht laughed and said, ‘You look like a tadpole,’ before sending him off to Bertolt Brecht to ask for the part of the village idiot. Brecht admired Lorre’s tadpoleish looks and he was soon directing him in major roles. He starred, for example, in Mann ist Mann at the same time as he was filming ...

Pork Chops and Pineapples

Terry Eagleton: The Realism of Erich Auerbach

23 October 2003
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature 
by Erich Auerbach.
Princeton, 579 pp., £13.95, May 2003, 9780691113364
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... the urban masses of Paris, even though those masses are nowhere actually present in his work. Bertolt Brecht thought that realism was a matter of a work’s effects, not of whether it recalled something familiar. According to this theory, realism is a relationship between the artwork and its audience, in which case your play can be realistic on ...

Brecht’s New Age

Margot Heinemann

1 March 1984
Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches 
by John Willett.
Methuen, 274 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 413 50410 7
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BrechtA Biography 
by Ronald Hayman.
Weidenfeld, 423 pp., £18.50, September 1983, 0 297 78198 7
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... If you want to discuss Shakespeare, you have to depend on reading and seeing his work. Not so with Brecht. Not only did he write a great deal of commentary himself. All those who knew him well were impressed, and by now almost every one of them has written a book or articles about him, or at least had one ghost-written. New biographies and studies keep ...
5 February 1981
... With the deaths of Thomas Mann in 1955 and of Bertolt Brecht and Gottfried Benn in 1956, a major era in the history of German literature comes to an end. These three are not only the greatest writers of their age, they are also its witnesses. Each of them worked in a different genre: Thomas Mann in the convoluted, partly essayistic prose of his novels, Bert Brecht in the drama and narrative poetry of social dialectics, Benn in the lyrical poetry of radical Modernism ...
18 February 1988
The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... Mr Carter well knows that to call Manning Clark an imperialist historian is like saying that Bertolt Brecht had a crush on the Duchess of Windsor. But big ideas go beyond what the mind that hatches them knows: they fly into the realm where thought is pure. Mr Carter has got himself convinced that even though a historian might be a radical, the ...

For the hell of it

Terry Eagleton: Norberto Bobbio

22 February 2001
In Praise of Meekness: Essays on Ethics and Politics 
by Norberto Bobbio, translated by Teresa Chataway.
Polity, 186 pp., £50, October 2000, 0 7456 2309 3
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... He or she is not a sign of that future, but of how much it takes to achieve it. As a poem by Bertolt Brecht comments: ‘Oh we who tried to lay the ground for friendship/ Could not ourselves be friendly.’ Similarly, the monk or religious celibate is no image of heaven, just a dramatic signifier of how much, in an unjust world, will have to be ...

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