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

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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.

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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.

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

—  Bertolt Brecht
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! The Exception and the Rule (1937), Prologue

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„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."

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

—  Bertolt Brecht
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! A response to the Nazi book burnings, in "To Posterity" (1939) as translated by H. R. Hays (1947)

„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
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! A response to the Nazi book burnings, in "To Posterity" (1939) as translated by H. R. Hays (1947)

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

—  Bertolt Brecht
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. ¶ 55

„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
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. "Entertainment or Education? (1936)

„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
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. Essays on the Art of Theater (1954).

„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
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. "Freedom for Whom", as translated in Brecht on Brecht : An Improvisation (1967) by George Tabori, p. 18

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

—  Bertolt Brecht
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.

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

—  Bertolt Brecht
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. The Sergeant, in Scene 1

„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
Context: 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. "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, <br/> And he shows them pearly white <br/> Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear <br/> 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"

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