Biography of Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Bertolt Brecht

German writer, born in Augsburg on February 10, 1898 and died in East Berlin in 1956. His real name was Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht. In addition to being one of the dramatists most prominent and innovative of the 20th century, whose works are always looking for reflection of the spectator, he tried to also encourage political activism with the letters of his lieder, which Kurt Weill put music.

Began his studies in literature and philosophy in Munich in 1917, which would later add those of medicine. During WWI first began to write and publish his works. Since 1920 he attended the Munich art world and worked as a playwright and stage director. In this environment he met F. Wedekind, K. Valentin and L. Feuchtwanger, who always maintained close contact. In 1924 he moved to Berlin, where he worked as a playwright at the orders of Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater; later he also collaborated in collective works together with Elisabeth Hauptmann, Erwin Piscator, Hans Eislerand Kurt Weill, Slatan Dudow and locked relations with the painter Georg Grosz.

In 1926 he began his intensive dedication to Marxism and established close contact with Karl Korsch and Walter Benjamin. Its Dreigroschenoper (Opera of four quarters, 1928) won the greatest known in the Weimar Republic success in 1928. In the year 1928 he married the actress Helene Weigel.

It was in 1930 when you begin to have more contacts with the German Communist Party. On February 28, 1933, the day after the burning of the German Parliament, Brecht began his way to exile in Svendborg (Denmark). After a brief season in Austria, Switzerland and France, he went to Denmark, where settled with his wife and two collaborators, Margarethe Steffin and Ruth Berlau. In 1935 he travelled to Moscow, New York and Paris, where took part in the Congress of antifascist writers, arousing a fierce controversy.

In 1939, fearing the German occupation, he went to Sweden; in 1940, to Finland, a country that had to flee before the arrival of the nazis; and in 1941, through the Soviet Union (via Vladivostok), to Santa Monica, in the United States, where he remained six years isolated, living Hollywood scripts. In 1947 it was Galileo Galilei screen, with little success. Following the release of this film, the UN-American activities Committee was considered suspicious item and had to go to East Berlin (1948), where he first organized the Deutsches Theater and, later, the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. Before he had passed through Switzerland, where he worked with M. Frisch and G. Weisenborn.

In Berlin, together with his wife Helene Weigel, founded in 1949 the renowned Berliner Ensemble, and devoted himself exclusively to the theater. Although always noted with skepticism and severely criticized the process of political restoration of the Federal Republic, had also serious conflicts with the political leadership of the Democratic Republic.

Brecht is undoubtedly one of the most prominent playwrights of the 20th century, as well as one of the most prestigious opera. Apart from these two facets, also include his short prose of didactic and dialectic nature. The basis of all of its production is already since the times of Munich, an anti-bourgeois position, a critique of forms of life, ideology and the artistic conception of the bourgeoisie, emphasizing at the same time the human need of happiness as a basis for life. With his dedication to Marxism, this position became much more radical, and went on to refer to an isolated individual to be framed in the context of the whole of society: the autonomous individual annihilated by capitalism (Mann ist Mann, man is man, 1924/25) gets new qualities within the collective. With the character that gives title to the Baal (1922) drama, Brecht created a type that appears throughout all of its production in different variations (Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Schweyk in the second world war, 1943) and which is expressed in a much more radical fragments Untergang des Egoisten Johann Fatzer (the twilight of the egoist Johann Fatzer1927/30) and Die Reisen des Glucksgotts (the God of luck, 1941 trips). The opposite position together with the revolutionary collective maternal figures and the dialectic represent (Geschichten von Herrn Keuner, stories of Mr. Keuner, 1930). The literary development of Brecht, in his lyric goes from a critical approach to the "Neue Sachlichkeit" to forms of collective resistance (Gedichte-Lieder-Chöre, Canciones-Poemas - chorus, 1934), is influenced by Lutero, Shakespeare's Bible and classical antiquity, as well as by the Asian theatre and philosophy china.

Brecht understands philosophy as the doctrine of good behavior, a category that is essential in his work. In this sense he understands their texts as progressive attempts to cause surprise, reflection, reproduction and changes of attitude and behaviour in the Viewer. This uses the name "distancing effect" ("Verfremdungseffekt"), that not to be understood only as an aesthetic technique, but as "a social measure". His most radical dramatic attempts of pedagogical and political are Lindberghflug (the Lindbergh flight, 1929), Das Badener Lehrstuck und der Neinsager (parable of Baden and he said that no, 1930), Die Maßnahme, (measurement, 1930), Die Ausnahme und die Regel (the exception and the rule, 1930) and Die Horatier und die Kuratier (the horacianos and the curacianos1934); in all of them it highlights a strong separation between stage and audience.

With the advent of national socialism all these revolutionary attempts lost their social budgets. In exile, Brecht wrote without publishing them some of his best known pieces: Leben des Galilei (life of Galileo Galilei, which appeared in 3 versions: a Danish of 1938-39, another American of 1945-46, and the third, Berlin, 1953-55), Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (mother courage and her children, 1939), Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (the good man of Sezuan, 1943)Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (the Mr Puntila and his Man Matti, 1940), apart from theoretical writings on theater (Der Messingkauf, the purchase of brass, 1939/40) and some notes for a few novels (Tui-Roman, novel by Tui, 1930/42;) Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Caesar, the business of Mr Julio César, 1938/39). Their analyses of fascism and the Svendborger Gedichte (poems of Svendborg, 1939) took an active part in the antifascist struggle.

Conditioned by the social situation, after 1945 he worked only in works of didactic character, forgetting their early experiments. Perhaps this was what made him a classic to the point that the current Theatre (both in the former GDR and the former FRG) would be unthinkable without it.

Other works.

The earliest, include drums in the night (1919), which reflected the Spartacist revolt in Berlin, and the thickness of the cities (1921-1924), who plays the Chicago gangsters. In book of prayers domestic (1927) made an exaltation of the insociabilidad and highlighted how corrupt and destructive energy.

In the rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny (1918-1929) was its adherence to Marxism. Other works of this period are: the line of conduct (1939), set in China; The mother (1930-1932), work that he is parent-child education; The exception and the rule (1930), and Santa Juana slaughterhouses (1929-1930), complex drama set in Chicago, where class differences are marked by the language, and the protagonist Juana does not mean that only violence helps there where violence reigns.

In exile, he published several of his poems. These include: songs, poems, choirs and poetry of Svendborg (both 1934), of the same year is the novel's two cents. He reworked the Opera with the title stories of Almanac (1948). We must add dialogues of fugitives from 1940. A celebration of positive energy put into action is the Caucasian chalk circle (1944). It is worth noting the prodigious rise of Arturo Ui (1941), Schweyk in the second World War (1941-44), the process of Lucullus (1951); and, finally, Turandot (1954). Poet of great quality, returns back to the European tradition of symbolic and surrealistic to take, as puts it, "the dry, ignoble, lexicon of dialectical economics". He explored the rhythmic possibilities that away you from the melody.