The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects

The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects

The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects

The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects

Excerpt

It is hard to discuss a writer whose work is unfamiliar to English readers, especially when he is subject to sweeping verdicts and confusing interpretations. One cannot take the necessary knowledge for granted; yet it would be tedious to give continual explanations in the text. In this case I have reversed the normal order of the book, and started with some of the solid facts which would otherwise have gone in an appendix: that is, a chronology of Brecht's work and a short description of all the plays. They form the background of the eight chapters that follow.

They are not meant to be compulsory reading for those who would rather get on with the main body of the book. They are designed to be skimmed or skipped, but to stick in the reader's mind enough to give some impression of the flavour of Brecht's work and show him where to turn back to when he wants more detailed explanation of some allusion that has cropped up in the text. To prevent him from getting lost in a sea of unfamiliar names there is a chronological list of the plays on the flap of the wrapper, and again on the end-paper. It is numbered to correspond with the opening analysis of the plays.

All works are referred to by their German titles, except where there is a generally accepted English one. Quotations are given in English--in my own translation unless otherwise stated--and with a reference in the notes to say where the original German is to be found. The words 'produce', 'producer' and 'production' are throughout used in the English rather than the American sense.

My own interest in Brecht goes back to about 1938. Early in 1956 I was encouraged by Miss Margaret Mynatt and Mr Hans Hess to plan this book, whose publisher enabled me to spend two periods of about a fortnight each with the Ensemble in Berlin. During the first of these I saw Brecht at Buckow, where he was meant to be resting from his illness, and was given every help by Frau Weigel and Frau Hauptmann. During the second the changed conditions did not prevent them from showing my wife and myself the same personal kindness as before, and even reading the book in draft, though as Brecht's literary executors they felt unable to check any factual errors or to help fill the remaining gaps. More detailed acknowledgments can wait till later, but I would like at once to state my debt to Herr Palitzsch . . .

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