What Is Permitted to Jove

The New Yorker, November 5, 1966.


ProfileĀ of Bertolt Brecht, world-famous German playwright & poet. His political biography is a kind of case history of the uncertain relationship bet. poetry & politics. He was a strict adherent to the Communist idealogy all his life. In 1941 he found refuge in the U.S. He left in 1947, after being called before the Comm. on Un-American Activities. He was not permitted to settle in W. Germany. He went to E. Germany, where he was given the direction of a theatre, and for the first time in his life, ample opportunity to watch the Communist variety of total domination at close range. In Aug., 1956 he died having done little creative work in his last years. Writer feels that political attitudes & commitments play an important role in the life of an author, as they did in Brecht’s. She quotes at great length from his poetry & outlines his characteristics. He wrote much in ballad form out of a feeling of solidarity with the oppressed. Brecht was born in 1898 & belonged to what might be called the first of the three lost generations, which included those born, roughly bet. 1890 & 1920. Brecht had a disposition for anonymity & ordinariness; he was an anarchist of a special sort. Though he grew up in Catholic surroundings he denied religion. Compassion was doubtless his fiercest and most fundamental passion. He was married to one of Germany’s great actresses, Helene Weigel. Writer feels Brecht suffered just punishment when his poetic faculty dried up in his last years in E. Berlin.

The New Yorker