Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 121

Towards morning in the gray dawn the evergreens piss, and their vermin,
the birds, begin to cry. Around that hour I drain my glass in the city and
fling my cigar butt away and go to sleep, troubled.
We have sat, a trivial generation, in houses that were held to be inde·
structable (thus did we build the tall structures of the Island of Manhattan
and the thin antennae which entertain the Atlantic Ocean).
Of these cities will remain: that which goes through them, the wind! The
house makes the eater happy: he empties it. We know that we are transient
and that there will come after us: nothing worth mentioning.
In the earthquakes which will come I shall not, I hope, allow my cigar to
go out because of' bitterness, I, Bertolt Brecht, strayed into the asphalt
cities from the black forests, in my mother long ago.)
This is from the poem
Vom Armen B. B.,
or About Poor B. B., in
which Brecht pretends to speak for himself. The mannerisms of a
variety of literary and non-literary attiudes, past and present, are
juxtaposed with the flair, humor and seriousness which are Brecht's
genius. · He dramatizes himself only in order to puncture every
false attitude within reach, to exhibit the disparity between litera–
ture and the facts.
Brecht misfires occasionally, usually because of a lapse in
taste. Sometimes the irony is over-labored, and the grotesque and
macabre overdone. Sometimes the understatement is overstated.
But at that, it is remarkable how rare Brecht's failures are: there is
hardly a really bad poem in the
Brecht wanted to write "popular" because, like Rimbaud, his
position was that of the pariah who has no patience with the for–
malities, either of living or of literature. In the
in the plays of the same period he does not storm against society;
the lumpenproletariat, the gutter men, complain and lament, but
they do not criticize. Brecht simply rejected civilization entire and
for a nihilism of despair which permitted him only one
value: comradeship, which he found at its purest where it had the
least competition: the Bohemia of tramps, suspicious characters,
freebooters and sailors. "Through thick and thin" and "true to ·the
end" were bromides that Brecht took seriously. (One given to that
sort of thing might find the Brecht of this period a perfect example
of proto-Nazi temperament, with
violence, free–
bootery, pimps and all.) He celebrates the example of women who
out of faithfulness follow their men into degradation, who hang
on to their partners through corruption and stench, humiliation
and despair. In search of the places where the horror of civiliza·
80...,111,112,113,114,115,116,117,118,119,120 122,123,124,125,126,127,128,129,130,131,...160
Powered by FlippingBook