Bertolt Brecht quotes

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Bertolt Brecht

Birthdate: 10. February 1898
Date of death: 14. August 1956
Other names: Bertold Brecht, Бертольд Брехт

Eugen Berthold Friedrich "Bertolt" Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director of the 20th century. He made contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter through the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble – the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht and his wife, long-time collaborator and actress Helene Weigel.

Works

The Mother
Bertolt Brecht
Die Lösung
Bertolt Brecht
Threepenny Novel
Threepenny Novel
Bertolt Brecht

Quotes Bertolt Brecht

„The man who laughs has simply not yet had the terrible news.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

"To Those Born Later", part of the Svendborg Poems (1939)
quoted in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 318
Variation: He who laughs last has not yet heard the bad news.
German: Wer jetzt noch lacht, hat die neuesten Nachrichten noch nicht gehört.
Poems, 1913-1956 (1976)

„Let nothing be called natural
In an age of bloody confusion“

—  Bertolt Brecht, The Exception and the Rule

The Exception and the Rule (1937), Prologue
Context: Let nothing be called natural
In an age of bloody confusion,
Ordered disorder, planned caprice,
And dehumanized humanity, lest all things
Be held unalterable!

„Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

Mistakenly attributed to Vladimir Mayakovsky in The Political Psyche (1993) by Andrew Samuels, p. 9; mistakenly attributed to Brecht in Paulo Freire: A Critical Encounter (1993) by Peter McLaren and Peter Leonard, p. 80; variant translation: "Art is not a mirror held up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it."
First recorded in Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (1924; edited by William Keach (2005), Ch. 4: Futurism, p. 120): "Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes."
Disputed

„Do not treat me in this fashion. Don't leave me out. Have I not
Always spoken the truth in my books?“

—  Bertolt Brecht

A response to the Nazi book burnings, in "To Posterity" (1939) as translated by H. R. Hays (1947)
Context: Do not treat me in this fashion. Don't leave me out. Have I not
Always spoken the truth in my books? And now
You treat me like a liar! I order you:
Burn me!
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.
Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!

„Even the most blockheaded bureaucrat,
Provided he loves peace,
Is a greater lover of the arts
Than any so-called art-lover
Who loves the arts of war.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

"Freedom for Whom", as translated in Brecht on Brecht : An Improvisation (1967) by George Tabori, p. 18
Context: Firebugs dragging their gasoline bottles
Are approaching the Academy of Arts, with a grin.
And so, instead of embracing them, Let us demand the freedom of the elbow
To knock the bottles out of their filthy hands.
Even the most blockheaded bureaucrat,
Provided he loves peace,
Is a greater lover of the arts
Than any so-called art-lover
Who loves the arts of war.

„The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is an escape for him. That's great art — nothing is self-evident. I am made to laugh about those who cry, and cry about those who laugh.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

"Entertainment or Education? (1936)
Context: The theater-goer in conventional dramatic theater says: Yes, I've felt that way, too. That's the way I am. That's life. That's the way it will always be. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is no escape for him. That's great art — Everything is self-evident. I am made to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh. But the theater-goer in the epic theater says: I would never have thought that. You can't do that. That's very strange, practically unbelievable. That has to stop. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is an escape for him. That's great art — nothing is self-evident. I am made to laugh about those who cry, and cry about those who laugh.

„Translation: Show interest in her goodness — for no one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand.“

—  Bertolt Brecht, The Good Person of Szechwan

Bezeig du Interesse an ihrer Güte, denn keiner kann lang gut sein, wenn nicht Güte verlangt wird.
http://books.google.com/books?id=zEhJAAAAYAAJ&q=%22Bezeig+du+Interesse+an+ihrer+G%C3%BCte+denn+keiner+kann+lang+gut+sein+wenn+nicht+G%C3%BCte+verlangt+wird%22&pg=PA116#v=onepage
First God, in Scene 1a, p. 38
The Good Person of Sezuan (1943)

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„It is not enough to demand insight and informative images of reality from the theater. Our theater must stimulate a desire for understanding, a delight in changing reality.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

Essays on the Art of Theater (1954).
Context: It is not enough to demand insight and informative images of reality from the theater. Our theater must stimulate a desire for understanding, a delight in changing reality. Our audience must experience not only the ways to free Prometheus, but be schooled in the very desire to free him. Theater must teach all the pleasures and joys of discovery, all the feelings of triumph associated with liberation.

„And the shark he has his teeth and
There they are for all to see
And Macheath he has his knife but
No one knows where it may be.“

—  Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera

"The Moritat of Mackie the Knife" in Prologue, p. 3
Translation note: A "moritat" (a word meaning both "muderous deed" and "ballad") is a street song telling of murderous crimes.
Lotte Lenya, "Foreword", p. xii
Variant translation: Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear
And he keeps it out of sight.
Marc Blitzstein translation; largely used for Louis Armstrong's and Bobby Darin's pop renditions of "The Ballad of Mack the Knife"
The Threepenny Opera (1928)

„That's great art — Everything is self-evident. I am made to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

"Entertainment or Education? (1936)
Context: The theater-goer in conventional dramatic theater says: Yes, I've felt that way, too. That's the way I am. That's life. That's the way it will always be. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is no escape for him. That's great art — Everything is self-evident. I am made to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh. But the theater-goer in the epic theater says: I would never have thought that. You can't do that. That's very strange, practically unbelievable. That has to stop. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is an escape for him. That's great art — nothing is self-evident. I am made to laugh about those who cry, and cry about those who laugh.

„Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!“

—  Bertolt Brecht

A response to the Nazi book burnings, in "To Posterity" (1939) as translated by H. R. Hays (1947)
Context: Do not treat me in this fashion. Don't leave me out. Have I not
Always spoken the truth in my books? And now
You treat me like a liar! I order you:
Burn me!
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.
Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!

„You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

The Sergeant, in Scene 1
Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)
Context: What they could do with round here is a good war. What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization.

„Thus for art to be 'unpolitical' means only to ally itself with the 'ruling' group.“

—  Bertolt Brecht, A Short Organum for the Theatre

¶ 55
A Short Organum for the Theatre (1949)
Context: Unless an actor is satisfied to be a parrot or a monkey he must master our period's knowledge of human social life by himself joining the war of the classes. Some people may feel this is degrading, because they rank art, once the money side has been settled, as one of the highest things; but mankind's highest decisions are in fact fought out on earth, not in the heavens; in the 'external world', not inside people's heads. Nobody can stand above the warring classes, for nobody can stand above the human race. Society cannot share a common communication system so long as it is split into warring classes. Thus for art to be 'unpolitical' means only to ally itself with the 'ruling' group.

„Art and science coincide insofar as both aim to improve the lives of men and women.“

—  Bertolt Brecht, A Short Organum for the Theatre

A Short Organum for the Theatre (1949)
Context: Art and science coincide insofar as both aim to improve the lives of men and women. The latter normally concerns itself with profit, the former with pleasure. In the coming age, art will fashion our entertainment out of new means of productivity in ways that will simultaneously enhance our profit and maximize our pleasure.

„In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.“

—  Bertolt Brecht

In den finsteren Zeiten
Wird da auch gesungen werden?
Da wird auch gesungen werden.
Von den finsteren Zeiten.
"Motto to the 'Svendborg Poems' " [Motto der 'Svendborger Gedichte] (1939), trans. John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 320
Poems, 1913-1956 (1976)

„What is the burgling of a bank to the founding of a bank?“

—  Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera

Macheath, in Act 3, scene 3, p. 92
The Threepenny Opera (1928)

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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