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Quotes / Bertolt Brecht

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By Brecht

The bandit Macheath must be played as a bourgeois phenomenon. The bourgeosie's fascination with bandits rests on a misconception: that a bourgeois is not a bandit.
— 1931 Note on The Threepenny Opera.

But you, when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do not judge us
Too harshly.
To Posterity

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
The Solution

Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, final lines addressing the audience.

"The great Carthage waged three wars. It was still powerful after the first, still habitable after the second. It was untraceable after the third."


About Brecht

Brecht is an elusive figure...He could use people and yet command absolute loyalty, not least from the many women in his life. He was a dedicated survivor who learnt to co-exist with many masters. A Communist from the late twenties, he never joined the Party. Aware of the excesses of Stalinism (which devoured some of his friends), he never took a public stand against the Soviet Union, yet in 1941 he ended up in California rather than Moscow. Arraigned by [the] House Committee on Unamerican Activities, he convinced his interrogators that he was not a Communist without prejudicing his long-held convictions. When he returned to Europe he chose to have an East German theatre, a West German publisher and an Austrian passport, all for the best of reasons.
Hugh Rorrison, Introduction to Brecht Three Plays: Baal, The Threepenny Opera, The Mother.

The deepest motive underlying Brecht's break with tradition, however, is neither the cause of social justice, nor, certainly his dialectical-materialist approach to history. Much more genuine in him is a passionate anger at the course of the world, where it has always been only the victors who have chosen what is to be recorded and remembered by mankind. His poetry is written not only for the underprivileged, but for all those, living or dead, whose voice has never been heard on earth...These are not songs of "social significance,"...but the expression of a passionate longing for a world in which all can be seen and heard, the passionate wrath against a history that remembered a few and forgot so many, a history that under the pretense of remembering caused us to forget. And here to lies the most valid reason for choice of the ballad, which in German tradition had always been the folk form of poetry, the tradition of unrecorded poetry, in which the people, condemned to darkness and oblivion, attempted to record their own history and create their own poetical eternity.
Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Literature and Culture


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