Today Brecht is best known as a poet, and most critics consider his poetic talent his strong point. His plays were mostly based on the works of others. But he was an innovator with his theatrical "Verfremdungseffekt" ("alienation effect"), designed to make the audience active, thinking participants in a play, rather than just passive observers who get lost in dramatic illusion. Many people today know Brecht best through the "Threepenny Opera" songs he wrote with the composer Kurt Weill ("Mackie Messer"/"Mack the Knife"). Like many artists, Brecht has become more appreciated after his death than he was during his lifetime. His sardonic humor now seems almost contemporary.
Born into a bourgeois family with a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, Brecht became a Marxist who was critical of society and religion in general. Forced into exile by the Nazis in 1933, Brecht was a man without a country for much of his life. He seemed to live in his own "alienation effect." Even after his return to East Germany in 1949, Brecht went from being viewed as a radical Marxist in the West, to being viewed suspiciously by the East for his unorthodox dramatic theories.For a brief time Brecht worked in Hollywood - a place he did not like very much. With the Austrian director Fritz Lang, Brecht wrote the script for "Hangmen Also Die" (1943), inspired by the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech resistance fighters, and the ensuing retaliation by the Nazis. Forced out of Hollywood by HUAC, Brecht finally settled in East Berlin.
Brecht quickly discovered, however, that the German Democratic Republic was not quite his ideal brand of Communism, and he was often at odds with his East German hosts. He did not care to keep up appearances, and because of his scruffy, unshaven appearance, East German security guards once excluded him from a Berlin reception being held in his own honor.
He died in East Berlin in 1956.
During the exile period, Bertolt Brecht was forced to develop new aesthetic forms since
it was often difficult to find theaters to produce his work. The prose works of the exile period such as Me-Ti, the
Keuner stories, and the Tui novel, as well as Brecht's
Arbeitsjournal, can be seen as an extension of his aesthetic
experiments to the realm of prose literature.
Bertolt Brecht - Auszüge aus dem Arbeitsjournal 1948 - 1954
(192 kbps, cover art included)