Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Saint Joan of the Stockyards (3:10 min) from Vladimir Rovinsky on Vimeo.

I've been reading this book I got ultra-cheap a while back at a library sale: Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art, and His Times by Frederic Ewen. It;s a fairly heavy book - about 500 pages before you get to the appendix, notes, and index - but I've found it unputdownable.

It's probably inevitable that Brecht's reputation rises and falls with the political tide and is at times shunned by people who don't share his political leanings, since that was the subject of so much of his work. Still, he was a working writer and not just a professional Communist agitator. As I've been reading I've seen more about his curiosity and penchant for experiment. His initial ventures into poetry were influenced by his medical studies. By the time he left Germany he was starting to absorb the influence of Japanese Noh drama as well.

Again, though, there was always going to be some fraction. The play excerpted in the video above is Saint Joan of the Stockyards, his reinterpretation of the Joan of Arc story. In Germany at the time it didn't play in theaters, only getting a partial reading on radio. It was 1932. Other stuff was starting to happen, about which you may have heard.


susan said...

I'm not sure how long ago it was, but we did watch 'The Threepenny Opera' again after not having seen it in many years. Other than that and a few other bits and pieces (Alabama Song) I didn't know much about Brecht's life other than the fact he hated Nazism with a passion and left Germany when Hitler came to power. It seems to me that rather than being a Communist what he actually espoused was contrariness to what he saw as the excesses of Capitalism. In that he's certainly proven to have been correct.

Ben said...

I know he self-identified as a Marxist and eventually high-tailed it to East Germany after the partition. At the same time, though, it doesn't seem to have been in him to be an apparatchik.

I remember watching the Threepenny Opera movie with you and being pretty impressed. Weill was a great composer too. Interesting thing. Brecht wanted to update the script so that the criminals would all be bankers, but it didn't fly with the studio. What was that about "excesses of Capitalism"?