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Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)


German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer, one of the most prominent figures in the 20th-century theatre. Bertolt Brecht was concerned with encouraging audiences to think rather than becoming too involved in the story line and to identify with the characters. In this process he used alienation effects (A Effekts). Brecht developed a form of drama called epic theatre in which ideas or didactic lessons are important.

"In order to produce A Effects the actor has to discard whatever means he has learned of persuading the audience to identify itself with the characters which he plays. Aiming not to put his audience into a trance, he must not go into a trance himself. His muscles must remain loose, for a turn of the head, e.g., with tautened neck muscles, will "magically" lead the spectators' eyes and even their heads to turn with it, and this can only detract from any speculation or reaction which the gestures may bring about. His way of speaking has to be free from ecclesiastical singsong and from all those cadences which lull the spectator so that the sense gets lost." (from A Short Organum for the Theatre, 1948)

Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, the son of Beltold Brecht, the director of a paper company, and Sophie Brezing, the daughter of a civil servant. His father was a Catholic, and his mother a Protestant. Both parents hailed from Achern in the Black Forest. Brecht began to write poetry as a boy, and had his first poems published in 1914. After finishing elementary school, he was sent to the Königliches Realgymnasium, where he gained fame as an enfant terrible. "Elementary shool bored me for four years," he later recalled. "During nine years of being lulled to sleep at the Augsburg Realgymnasium I didn't manage to be very much help to my teachers."

In 1917 Brecht enrolled as a medical student at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he sometimes attended also the theatre seminar conducted by Professor Artur Kutscher. Between 1919 and 1921 he wrote theatre criticisms for the left-wing Socialist paper Die Augsburger. After military service as a medical orderly, he returned to his studies, but abandoned them in 1921. During the Bavarian revolutionary turmoil of 1918, Brech wrote his first play, Baal. From this period also dates his poem, 'Legend of the Dead Soldier'. It was cited by the Nazis as one of their strong reasons to deprive him of German citizeship in 1935. Like several other poems, it was set to music by the author, and sung to the accompaniment of his guitar in a Berlin cabaret: "And when the war was four Spring old / And of peace there was not a breath / The soldier took the logical step / And died a hero's death." The soldier is then dug up, pronounced fot for active duty, and sent to the front, surrounded by a cheering crowd.

Baal, which celebrated life and sexuality, was produced in 1923. Although it did not first find any immediate producer it became eventually a huge success. At one point Brecht's father offered to pay for the play to be printed, but only without the family name in it. Brecht's association with Communism began in 1919, when he joined the Independent Social Democratic party. Friendship with the writer Lion Feuchtwanger was an important literary contact for the young writer. Feuchtwanger advised him on the discipline of playwriting. Brecht was named in 1920 chief adviser on play selection at the Munich Kammerspiele. As a result of a brief affair with Fräulein Bie Banholzer, Brecht had a son, named Frank after Wedekind. He was killed in an air raid in Word War II. In 1922 Brecht married the opera singer Marianne Zoff; they divorced in 1927. Later their daughter Hanne was an occasional guest artist with the Berlin Enselble.

Brecht´s rise to international fame began with Trommeln in der Nacht (1922), which was awarded the Kleist Prize. Die Dreigroschenoper, after The Beggar´s Opera by John Gay, premiered at the Schiffbauerdamm Theater on August 28, 1928. It stayed in the reportoire of this theater until the Nazis seized power in 1933. Brecht made the play with the composer Kurt Weil. Gay's work, revived by Sir Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theatre in London, had been a great success from 1920. Brecht moved the action to Victorian times, and instead of mocking the pretentions of Italian grand opera, he attacked on bourgeois respectability. Although rehearsals were disastrous, the audience wanted to hear over and over again the duet between Macheath and the Police Chief, Tiger Brown.

"Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear -
And he shows them pearly white -
Just a jackknife has Macheath, dear -
And he keeps it out of sight."

(from The Threepenny Opera, 1928)

In 1924 Brech was appointed a consultant at Max Reinhardt's Deutches Theater in Berlin. He had a son, Stefan by the actress Helene Weigel in 1926; they married two years later and stayed married for the rest of his life, in spite of his infidelity. Though Brecht often treated women with breathtaking insensitivity, he contributed through his work to the movement for women's reproductive freedom. Sometimes he portrayed himself as a country boy, never quite at home intellectual salons of the day. "He was very lean, with a hungry face to which his cap gave a slightly crooked look; his words were wooden and clipped," wrote Elias Canetti. "Under his gaze you felt like a worthless heirloom, and he, the pawnbroker with his piercing eyes, was appraising you."

Around 1927 Brecht started to study Karl Marx's Das Kapital and by 1929 he had adopted Communist ideology. At the Schiffbauerdam Theater he trained many actors who were to become famous on stage and screen, among them Oscar Homolka, Peter Lorre, and the singer Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weil's wife. Mann ist Mann, in which Lorre played Galy Gay, a simple Irish dock worker, closed only after six performances in 1931, but Brecht defended Lorre's performance as the hallmark of a new style of acting. With Hanns Eisler Brecht worked on a political film, Kuhle Wampe, the name referring to an area of Berlin where the unemployed lived in shacks. The film was released in 1932 and forbidden shortly afterward.

Brecht's politically committed play, Die Maßnahme (1930, The Measures Taken) reflected his antisentimentality and directness, which even the Communist Party found hard. A performance in Erfurt was broken up by the police. In the play a young Communist is murdered by the Party - his sympathy for the poor and their suffering only postpones the day of the historical showdown between the working class and capitalist class. The lesson is that the freedom of the individual must be suppressed today so that in the future mankind will be able to achieve freedom.

In the 1930s Brecht´s books and plays were banned in Germany, and theatrical performances were summarily forbidden. On the following day of the burning of the Reichstag in Berlin (Feb. 27, 1933), he went into exile, first to Denmark, where he lived mostly near Svendborg on the island of Fyn until 1939, and then in April, 1940, to Finland, where he settled in Iitti in Villa Marlebäck as the guest of the Finnish author Hella Wuolijoki. The place is in the middle of the countryside, far from the cities, and perhaps boring for a person used to lively metropolitan surroundings. "... these light nights are very beautiful," Brecht wrote in his diary. "i got up at three o'clock because of the flies, and went out. cocks were crowing, but it had not been dark. i like to relieve myself in the open ..." During the months at Marlebäck, Brecht wrote with Wuolijoki the folk-comedy Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (1940), and made during his stay his admiring "surrogate mother" jealous because of affairs with other women. Brech, who disliked bathing, was also famous for his promiscuousness.

Brecht continued in May of 1941 with his wife, children and secretary through Russia to the United States, eventually ending in Santa Monica. Ruth Berlau, a Danish actress and Brecht's mistress, had joined family in Helsinki and travelled with them from Finland to America Margarete Steffin, a German proletarian writer and Brecht's secretary and mistress, died in Moscow; she had been tubercular when she left Germany. Like Berlau, she made contributions to Brecht’s exile plays.

The family settled down in a small house in Santa Monica, California. Brech was prepared to stay longer, he made efforts to get his plays produced on Broadway, and tried to write for Hollywood, but the only script that found partial acceptance was Hangmen Also Die (1942). This anti-Nazi film was directed by Fritz Lang, the screenplay was written by John Wexley. "The intellectual isolation here is enormous," Brecht compained. "Compared to Hollywood, Svendborg was a world center." His ideas, such as "the production, distribution and enjoyment of bread," were not taken seriously by movie moguls. In 1947 Brecht was accused of un-American activities, but managed to confuse with half-truths J. Parnell Thomas, the chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, who praised Brecht for being an exemplary witness. The Committee broadcast the hearings on the radio; the "Brecht show" can be heard on a Folkways recording. However, Brecht had seen the writing on the wall and he flew to Switzerland, without waiting for the opening of his play Galileo in New York.

Between the years 1938 and 1945 Brecht wrote his four great plays. Leben des Galilei (1938-39, The Life of Galileo), which did follow too slavishly the actual historical person, dealt with the hero's self-condemnation for giving up his heliocentric theory in front of the Inquisition. Originally it was aimed at Broadway with Peter Lorre and Lotte Lenya playing the central roles. Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (1939) was an attempt to demonstrate that greedy small entrepreneurs make devastating wars possible. "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." Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (1938-40) examined the dilemma of how to be virtuous and at the same time survive in a capitalist world, and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (1944-45), demonstrating that ownership belongs best to those who can make humane use of it.

Hollywood never opened its doors to Brecht, who sketched notes for more than fifty films. With one exception, he sold no stories and wrote no screenplays. For Peter Lorre, who had become a star, Brecht wrote film treatments and Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg, a stage version of Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Švejk. He was also interested in bringing Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology to the screen. With Lion Feuchtwanger he collaborated on The Visions of Simone Machard. Brecht received at least $20,000 for his original idea. After 15 years of exile Brecht returned in 1948 to Germany. "When they accused me of wanting to steal the Empire State Building," Brech joked, "I thought it was high time to leave." Perhaps anticipating that Lorre's career in Hollywood was turning down, Brecht invited his favorite actor to join his ensemble in Berlin – "I need Lorre, unconditionally," he said. At the same time, he was well aware that Lorre was a drug addict. Brecht spend a year in Zürich working on Sophocles’ Antigone (translated by Friedrich Hölderin) and on his major theoretical work A Little Organum for the Theatre. After Zürich, Brech moved in 1949 to Berlin where he founded his own Marxist theater, the Berliner Ensemble, which was in the beginning just a group within the larger organization of the Deutches Theater. Its first production at the Stadttheater was Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti. Brecht’s wife Helene was his chief actress and carried on as a director.

Ingrid Pitt (1937-2010), one of the young actresses of the Ensembe and a critic of the Communist government, was forced to flee the country on the night of her debut performance in Mother Courage and Her Children. She made in the 1970s a career as the first lady of British horror cinema. Brecht had also some problems with the new authorities of DDR, although he wrote prose that pleased the censors. When the workers of East Berlin rose in revolt, Brecht expressed in a letter to the party chief, Walter Ulbricht, his loyalty but also criticized the government. However, he never took a public stand against the East Berlin regime. In his verse Brecht revealed his angst with cryptic lines: "What times are these, when / to speak of trees is almost a crime / because it passes in silence over such infamy!" To assure for himself freedom of travel, Brecht obtained the Austrian passport in 1950.

In the West as well as in the East Germany Brecht became the most popular contemporary poet, outdistanced only by such classics as Shakespeare, Schiller, and Goethe. Jean Vilar's production of Mutter Courage in 1951 secured him a following in France, and the Berliner Ensemble's participation in the Paris International Theatre Festival (1954) further spread his reputation. In 1955 Brecht received the Stalin Peace Prize. His acceptance speech, delivered in Moscow, was translated into Russian by Boris Pasternak. The next year he contracted a lung inflammation and died of a coronary thrombosis on August 14, 1956, in East Berlin.

Brecht's works have been translated into 42 languages and sold over 70 volumes. Drawing on the Greek tradition, he wanted his theater to represent a forum for debate hall rather than a place of illusions. From the Russian and Chinese theaters Brecht derived some of his basic concepts of staging and theatrical stylization. His concept of the Verfremdungseffekt, or V-Effekt (sometimes translated as 'alienation effect') centered on the idea of "making strange" and thereby making poetic. He aimed to take emotion out of the production, persuade the audience to distance from the make believe characters and urge actors to dissociate from their roles. Then the political truth would be more easy to comprehend. Once he said: "Nothing is more important than learning to think crudely. Crude thinking is the thinking of great men."

"His theater of alienation intended to motivate the viewer to think. Brecht's postulate of a thinking comportment converges, strangely enough, with the objective discernment that autonomous artworks presupposes in the viewer, listener, or reader as being adequate to them. His didactic style, however, is intolerant of the ambiguity in which thought originates: It is authoritarian. This may have been Brecht's response to the ineffectuality of his didactic plays: As a virtuoso of manipulative technique, he wanted to coerce the desired effect just as he once planned to organize his rise to fame." ( Theodor Adorno in Aesthetic Theory, 1997)

Brecht formutated his literary theories much in reaction to Georg Lukács (1885-1971), a Hungarian philosopher and Marxist literary theoretician. He disapproved Lukács attempt to distinguish between good realism and bad naturalism. Brecht considered the narrative form of Balzac and Tolstoy limited. He rejected Aristotele's concept of catharsis and plot as a simple story with a beginning and end. From Marx he took the idea of superstructure to which art belongs, but avoided too simple explanations of ideological world view - exemplified in the character of the Good Woman of Setzuan.

For further reading: Brecht: A Choise of Evils by M. Esslin (1959); Brecht: The Man and His Work by M. Esslin (1959); Bertolt Brecht by R. Gray (1961); The Art of Bertolt Brecht by W. Weideli (1963); Bertolt Brecht by F. Ewen (1967); Bertolt Brecht by W. Haas (1968); Understanding Brecht by W. Benjamin (1973); Brecht as they knew him, ed. by H. Witt (1975); Bertolt Brecht in America by James K. Lyon (1981); Brecht in Exile by Bruce Cook (1983); Brecht by R. Hayman (1983); Bertolt Brecht by J.Speirs (1987); The Poetry of Brecht, by P.J. Thompson (1989); Postmodern Brecht by E. Wright (1989); Brecht by Hans Mayer (1996); Brecht & Co. by John Fuegi (1997); Brecht-Chronik by Klaus Völker (1997); Bertolt Brecht by G. Berg (1998); The Cambridge Companion to Brecht, edited by Peter Thomson and Glendyr Sacks (2nd ed., 2006)  - See also: Elias Canetti, Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weil's Alabama Song (Whisky Bar), performed by The Doors
"Oh! Moon of Alabama
We now must say good-by
We've lost our good old mama
And must have whiskey
Oh, you know why!"

( 'Alabama Song' from Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, 1931)
Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (wr. 1940/41, prod. 1948). Based on stories by the Finnish writer Hella Wuolijoki. Puntila is a rich farmer, a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde figure, who is generous when intoxicated and mean and selfish when sober. Puntila wants his daughter Eva to marry a diplomat, but his drunk personality sees a better choice in his chauffeur and drinking companion Matti. An party is arranged to celebrate Eva's engagement to a diplomat. When Puntila gets drunk he insults the fiancé, and wants Matti to marry her. Matti puts her to the test. She fails to prove herself to be a good proletarian wife, and Matti leaves Puntila to join his working-class comrades. - Suom.: Brechtiltä on myös suomennettu kirjoituksia Aikamme teatterista sekä Runoja 1914-56. Elämäkerroista mainittakoon Kalervo Haikaran mittava teos Bertolt Brechtin aika, elämä ja tuotanto (1992).

Selected works:

  • Baal, 1918 (published 1922)
    - Baal (tr. Peter Tegel, 1963; Martin Esslin and Eric Bentley, 1964; Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, Vol. 1, 1970; Peter Mellencamp, 2000)
    - film: The Life Story of Baal, 1978, prod. British Film Institute (BFI), dir. by Edward Bennett, starring Neil Johnston, Patti Love and Jeff Rawle
  • Die Hochzeit, 1919 (published 1953 under the title Die Kleinbürgerhochzedit)
    - Pikkuporvarihäät (suom. Kalevi Haikara, 1979)
    - Respectable Wedding (tr. Jean Benedetti, in Collected Plays Vol. 1, 1970; Rory Bremner, 2007)
  • Der Bettler oder Der tote Hund, 1919 (published 1953)
    - The Beggar, or The Dog (tr. Michael Hamburger, in Collected Plays, Vol. 1, 1970)
  • Er treibt einen Teufel aus, 1919 (published 1953)
    - Driving Out the Devil (tr. Richard Grunberger, in Collected Plays, Vol. 1, 1970)
  • Der Fischzug, c1919
    - The Catch (ed. John Willet and Ralph Manheim, Collected Plays 1, 1970)
  • Trommeln in der Nacht, 1918/1920 (published 1922)
    - Drums in the Night (tr. Frank Jones, in Jungle of Cities and Other Plays, 1966; Cecil P. Taylor, 1973; John Willett, 1980; Finegan Kruckemeyer, 2005)
  • Lux in Tenebris, 1919 (published 1953)
    - Lux in Tenebris (tr. E. Geisel, in Collected Plays, Vol. 1, 1970; Martin and Rose Kastner, in Collected Plays, 1970-76)
  • Im Dickicht der Städte, 1921/1923 (published 1927)
    - Kaupunkien viidakossa (Elvi Sinervo, 1972)
    - In the Jungle of the Cities (tr. Ronald Hayman; Gerhard Nellhaus, 1961; Anselm Hollo, in Jungle and Other Plays, 1966) / In the Swamp (ed. Eric Bentley, in Seven Plays by Brecht, 1961) / Jungle of Cities (tr. Richard Nelson, 1981)
  • Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England, 1923/1924 (with Lion Feuchtwanger, publ. 1924, based on Christopher Marlowe's Edward II from 1594)
    - Edward II (tr. E. Bentley, 1966) / Edward The Second (tr. Andy Smith, 1976) / Life of Edward II of England (tr. Jean Benedetti, Collected Plays Vol. 1, 1970; Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72)
  • Mann ist Mann, 1924/1925 (publ. 1927)
    - Man Is Man (tr. Carl Mueller; Steve Gooch, 1971) / A Man's a Man (tr. E. Bentley, in Seven Plays by Brecht, 1961; Bernard Pomerance, 1975) / Man Equals Man (tr. Gerhard Nellhaus, in Collected Plays, 1970-76)
    - film 1931, dir. by Bertolt Brecht, Carl Koch, starring Theo Lingen, Peter Lorre (as Galy Gay), Helene Weigel
  • Das Elefantenkalb, 1924/1925 (publ. 1927)
    - The Baby Elephant (tr. Gerhard Nellhaus, 1949, Collected Plays, Vol. 2, 1977; John Willett, 1971) / The Elephant Calf (in The Jewish Wife and Other Short Plays, tr. E. Bentley, 1965) 
  • Die Hauspostille, 1927
    - Manual of Piety (a bilingual edition, 1966) / A Manual of Piety (tr. E. Bentley, 1967)
  • "Kalkutta, 4. Mai": Ein Stuck neue Sachlichkeit, 1925 (with Lion Feuchtwanger, publ. 1927)
    - Warren Hastings (tr. Willa Muir and Edwin Muir, in Two Anglo-Saxon Plays, 1928)
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1929 (music by Kurt Weil)
    - Kolmen pennin ooppera (suom. Liisa Ryömä & Elvi Sinervo; Max Rand & Turo Unho, 1970) / Kerjäläisooppera (suom. M. Haavio, 1930)
    - Threepenny Opera (tr. Wallace Shawn; Marc Blitzstein, 1956; Desmond Vesey, in Plays, Vol. 1, 1963; Cecil P. Taylor, 1972; Hugh MacDiarmid, 1973; Robert David MacDonald, 2000; Jeremy Sams, 2000; David Eldridge, 2010) / Three-Penny Opera (tr.. D. Vesey and E. Bentley, in From the Modern Repertoire, Vol. 1, 1949-1956; Ralph Manheim and John Willett, in Collected Plays, Vol. 2, 1977; Penguin Classics, 2007)
    - films: 1931, dir. by G.W. Pabst, starring Rudolf Forster, Carola Neher, Reinhold Schünzel, Fritz Rasp, Lotte Lenya; 1963, dir. by Wolfgang Staudte; 1990, Mac the Knife, dir. by Menahem Golan, starring Raul Julia, Richard Harris, Julia Migenes, Julie Walters
  • Happy End, 1929 (with Elisabeth Hauptmann, music: Kurt Weil)
    - Happy end: kolminäytöksinen komedia (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1979)
    - Happy End (tr. Michael Feingold, 1972)
  • Der Flug der Lindberghs, 1929 (music by Kurt Weil; retitled Der Ozeanflug; also as a radio play)
    - The Flight Over the Ocean (tr. William Gruber; John Willett and Ralph Manheim, Collected Plays, 1970)
  • Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, 1929
    - Ride and Fall of the City Mahagonny (tr. W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, in Collected Plays, 1970-76)
  • Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe, 1929-30
    - Teurastamojen Pyhä Johanna (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1969)
    - Saint Joan of the Slaughterhouses (tr. Peter Mellencamp) / Saint Joan of the Stockyards (tr. C. and A.L. Lloyd; ed. Eric Bentley, in Seven Plays by Brecht, 1961; Frank Jones, 1976; Lear Debessonet, 2007)
  • Die Ausnahme und die Regel, 1930 (written, publ. 1937)
    - Poikkeus ja sääntö (suom. Esko Elstelä ja Pekka Haukinen, 1963)
    - The Exception and the Rule (tr. E. Bentley, in New Directions in Prose and Poetry, 1955; Anthony Vivis, 1970; Ralph Manheim, 1977)
    - TV film: Poikkeus ja sääntö, 1965, prod. Mainostelevisio (MTV), dir. Ralf Långbacka, with Arto Tuominen, Turo Unho and Aarne Pentikäinen
  • Das Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis, 1930
    - The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent (ed. John Willett, Collected Works: Three, 1997)
  • Der Jasager, 1931
    - Toinen myöntyy - toinen ei (suom. Pirjo Linnanpuomi & Marja Leena Wegelius, 1972)
    - He Who Says Yes, He Who Says No (tr. John Willett and Ralph Manheim, Collected Plays, 1970; Wolfgang Sauerlander, in The Measures Taken And Other Lehrstücke, 1977; H.M. Potts, 1999)
  • Der Neinsager, 1931
    - Toinen myöntyy - toinen ei (suom. Pirjo Linnanpuomi & Marja Leena Wegelius, 1972)
    - He Who Says Yes, He Who Says No (tr. John Willett and Ralph Manheim, Collected Plays, 1970; Wolfgang Sauerlander, in The Measures Taken And Other Lehrstücke, 1977; H.M. Potts, 1999)
  • Die Maßnahme, 1931
    - The Measures Taken (translated by E. Bentley, in The Modern Theatre, Vol. 6, 1955; Carl R. Mueller, 1978)
  • Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe, 1931/1932 (publ. 1936)
    - The Roundheads and the Peakheads (tr. Alan Brown; Kyra Dietz; N. Goold-Verschoyle, in Jungle and Other Plays, 1966) / Round Heads and Pointed Heads or Money Calls to Money (tr. Tom Kuhn, 2005)
  • Die Mutter. Leben der Revolutionärin Pelagea Wlassowa aus Twer, 1932
    - The Mother (tr. Lee Baxandall, 1969; Steve Gooch, 1973/1978; Steve Trafford, 2001)
  • Die sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger, c1933 (also known as Anna-Anna, published 1959, music by Kurt Weil, choreography by Balanchine)
    - Pikkuporvarin seitsemän kuolemansyntiä (suom. Kalevi Haikara, 1974)
    - The Seven Deadly Sins of the PettyBourgeois (tr. W.H. Auden and Chester Kallmann, in Collected Plays, Vol. 2:3, 1979)
  • Versuche, 1930-1933 (vols. 1-7)
  • Dreigroschenroman, 1934
    - Kerjäläisromaani (suom. Aarno Peromies, 1959)
    - A Penny for the Poor (tr. 1938) / Three-Penny Novel (translated by Desmond I. Vesey; verses translated by Christopher Isherwood, 1958)
  • Die Horatier und die Kuriatier, 1934 (publ. 1938)
    - Horatiukset ja Kuriaukset (suom. Liisa Salosaari, 1965)
    - The Horatians and the Curatians (tr. 1947; Anthony Vivis, 1969)
  • Lieder Gedichte Chöre, 1934
  • Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar, 1937 (free adaptation of J.M. Synge's Riders to the Sea from 1904)
    - Rouva Carrarin kiväärit (suom. Turo Unho & Max Rand)
    - Señora Carrar's Rifles (tr. 1938; Wolfgang Sauerlander, in Collected Plays Vol. 4, 1983; Biyi Bandele-Thomas, 2007) / The Guns of Carrar (tr. George Tabori, 1963/1970)
  • Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches, 1935/1938 (published 1945, includes Die jüdische Frau)
    - The Private Life of the Master Race (tr. E. Bentley, 1944; Binyamin Shalom, 2006); The Jewish Wife (tr. Eric Bentley, in The Jewish Wife and Other Short Plays, 1965; Martin Crimp, 2007; Simon Scardifield, 2007)
    - film: Ubiytsy vykhodyat na dorogu, 1942, dir. Vsevolod Pudovkin, Yuri Tarich, starring Mikhail Astangov, Boris Blinov and Sofiya Magarill
  • Gesammelte Werke, 1938 (2 vols.)
  • Leben des Galilei, 1938/39 (published 1955)
    - Galilein elämä (suom. Ritva Arvelo, 1972)
    - The Life of Galileo (tr. Wolfgang Sauerlander; D.I. Vesey, 1963; Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72: Howard Brenton, 1980; David Hare, 1994; John Willett, 2003; David Edgar, 2005) / Galileo (ed. Eric Bentley, in Seven Plays by Brecht, 1961; Charles Laughton, From the Modern Repertoire, Series 2, 1952; edited and with an introd. by Eric Bentley, 1966; James Schevill, 1984; David Hare, 2005)
    - films: Leben des Galilei Galileo, TV drama, 1962, dir. Egon Monk, with Ernst Schröder, Hartmut Reck and Angelika Hurwicz; Galileo, 1975, prod. Cinévision Ltée, The American Film Theatre, screenplay Barbara Bray, Joseph Losey, Margarete Steffin, dir. by Joseph Losey, starring Topol (as Galileo Galilei), Tom Conti, Edward Fox, John Gielgud; Das Leben des Galileo Galilei, 1978 (TV drama), prod. Fernsehen der DDR, dir. Joachim Tenschert, Manfred Weckwerth
  • Der gute Mensch von Sezuan, 1938/39 (published 1953)
    - Setsuanin hyvä ihminen (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1955)
    - The Good Woman of Setzuan (tr. Eric Bentley, 1956; in Parables For The Theatre, 1966; Tanika Gupta, 2001) / The Good Person of Szechwan (tr. John Willett, 1964/1985; Michael Mc Millan, 2010) / The Good Person of Setzuan (tr. Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72; Michael Hofmann, 1989) / The Good Soul of Szechuan (tr. David Harrower, 2008)
  • Svendborger Gedichte, 1939
  • Was kostet das Eisen?, 1939
    - Paljonko rauta maksaa (suom. Matti Miikkulainen, 1968)
    - How Much Is Your Iron? (Martin and Rose Kastner, in Collected Plays Four, 2004)
  • Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, 1939 (published 1949, based on Hans Jakob Grimmelshausen's novel Simplicissimus from 1669)
    - Barbara Peloton ja hänen lapsensa (suom. Erikkia Vala & Katri Vala, 1941) / Äiti Peloton ja hänen lapsensa (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1975)
    - Mother Courage and Her Children (tr. Gideon Lester; Eric Bentley, in Seven Plays by Brecht, 1961; George Tabori, 1970; Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, Vol. 5, 1972; Ntozake Shange, 1980; Michael Hofmann, 1983; Hanif Kureishi, 1984; David Hare, 1995; Aladipo Agboluaje, 2004; John Willett, 2006; Jenny Connell, 2010; Ruben Polendo, 2010) / Mother Courage (tr. H.R. Hays, in New Directions, 1941; Lee Hall, 2000; Tony Kushner, 2006)
    - films: 1955, dir. by Wolfgang Staudte, starring Helene Weigel (as Mutter Courage), Simone Signoret; 1961, prod. Berliner Ensemble, DEFA, dir. by Peter Palitzsch & Manfred Wekwerth, starring Helene Weigel (as Mutter Courage)
  • Das Verhör des Lukullus, 1940 (also produced as opera, 1951; rev. version Die Verurteilung)
    - The Trial of Lucullus (tr. H.R. Hays, in Plays, Vol. 1, 1963; Frank Jones, in Collected Plays, Vol. 5, 1972)
  • Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti, 1940 (Geschrieben nach den Erzählungen und einem Stückentwurf von Hella Wuolijoki, publ. 1951; music: Paul Dessau, 1960)
    - Iso-Heikkilän isäntä ja hänen renkinsä Kalle: komediakertomus (Hella Wuolijoki & Bertolt Brecht, 1946)
    - Puntilan isäntä ja hänen renkinsä Matti (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1965)
    - Herr Puntila and His Servant Matti (tr. Jeremy Brooks, 1964) / Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti (tr. Paul Kriwaczek; Gerhard Nellhaus; John Willett, 1977; Lee Hall, 1998; Peter Arnott, 1999) / Puntila and His Hired Man (tr. G. Nellhaus, in Comedy: a Critical Anthology, ed. R.W. Cirrigan, 1971; Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, in Collected Plays, Vol. 6:3, 1987)
    - films: 1960, dir. by Alberto Cavalcanti, starring Curt Bois (as Johannes Puntila), Heinz Engelmann (as Matti Altonen); 1979, dir. by Ralf Långbacka, starring Lasse Pöysti (as Johannes Puntila), Pekka Laiho (Matti Aaltonen), Arja Saijonmaa (Eeva Puntila)
  • Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui, 1941 (published 1957)
    - Arturo Uin valtaannousu (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1965)
    - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (tr. George Tabori, 1972; Ralph Manheim, 1976; Ranjit Bolt, 2005; David Farr, 2008; Lucian Msamati, 2008)
    - film: Karera Arturo Ui, 1996, dir. Boris Blank, starring Aleksandr Filippenko (as Arturo Ui), Vyacheslav Nevinnyy and Valentin Gaft
  • Die Gesichte der Simone Machard, 1941/1943 (published 1956)
    - The Visions of Simone Machard (tr. Arnold Hinchliffe, 1961; Carl Richard Mueller, 1965; Hugh and Ellen Rank, in Collected Plays, Vol. 7, 1973/74)
  • Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 1941/1943 (published 1956, based on Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Schweik from 1920-23)
    - Shvejk toisessa maailmansodassa (suom. Hilkka Orava, 1963)
    - Scheyek in the Second World War (tr. Susan Davies) / Schweyk in the Second World War (tr. William Rowlinson, in Collected Plays, Vol. 7, 1985)
  • The Duchess of Malfi, 1943 (with W. H. Auden, adapted from a play by John Webster)
  • Leben des Konfutse, c1944 (published 1958)
    - Life of Concucius: I. The Ginger Jar (tr. H.E. Rank, in The Kenyon Review, 1958)
  • Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, 1944/1945 (published 1949, based on the Chinese play The Circle of Chalk)
    - Kaukaasialainen liitupiiri (suom. Ritva Arvelo, 1973)
    - The Caucasian Chalk Circle (tr. James and Tanja Stern, W.H. Auden, in Plays, Vol. 1, 1960; Pao Kun Kuo, 1967; E. and M. Bentley, 1964; rev. ed. 1967; Ralp Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72; James A. Saunders, 1979; Frank McQuinness, 2007; Alistair Beaton, 2009)
  • Selected Poems, 1947 (translation and introd. by H. R. Hays)
  • Die Antigone des Sophokles, 1947/1948 (published 1948, based on Friedrich Hölderlin's translation of Sophocles' drama)
    - Sophocles’ Antigone (tr. Judith Malina, 1990) / Antigone (tr. Robert Cameron; K.J. Porter, 1967)
  • Parables for the Theatre, 1948 (tr. E. and M. Bentley)
  • Kalendergeschichten, 1948 (edited by Keith A. Dickson, 1971)
    - Tales From the Calendar (the prose translated by Yvonne Kapp; the verse translated by Michael Hamburger, 1980)
  • Kleines Organon für das Theater, 1949
    - Teatteriteoria (suom. Irja Hagfors, 1954)
    - A Short Organum for the Theatre (in Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, tr. John Willett, 1964)
  • Versuche, 1949-1957 (vols. 7-15)
  • Die Tage der Commune, 1948/1949 (published 1957, based on Nordahl Grieg's The Defeat)
    - Kommuunin päivät (suom. Pentti Saaritsa, 1978)
    - The Days of the Commune (tr. Clive Barker and Arno Reinfrank, in The Massachusetts Review, 1978)
  • Der Hofmeister, 1951 (adaptation of Jakob Lenz's Der Hofmeister from 1778)
    - The Tutor (translated by Pip Broughton; Richard Grunberger; Geoffrey Skelton; Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72)
  • Bertholt Brecht-Hundert Gedichte 1918-1950, 1951
  • Herrnburger Bericht, 1951
  •  Der Prozess der Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen 1431, 1952 (published 1959, from Anna Segher's version)
    - The Trial of Joan of Arc at Rouen, 1431 (tr. Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72)
  • Don Juan, 1952 (published 1959, based on Moliere's Don Juan from 1665)
    - Don Juan (tr. Ralph Manheim, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72) )
  • Coriolan, 1952/1953 (published 1959, adaptation of Shakespeare's Coriolianus)
    - Coriolanus (tr. Ralph Manheim, 1972, in Collected Plays, 9 vols. 1970-72)
  • Stücke, 1953-1966 (13 vols.)
  • Turandot oder Der Kongreß der Weißwäscher, 1950-1954 (prod. 1970)
    - Turandot eli Puhtaaksipesijän kongressi (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1975)
    - Turandot (tr. Derek Goldsby; Stefan Lasch; Evelyn Warman; Edward Kemp, 2008)
  • Pauken und Trompeten, 1955 (written, with Elisabeth Hauptmann and Benne Besson, adaptation of George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer from 1706)
    - Rummut ja torvet (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1966)
    - Trumpets and Drums (tr. Alan Brown and Kyra Dietz; Rose and Martin Kastner, in Collected Plays, Vol. 9, 1975)
  • Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Cäsar, 1957
    - film: Geschichtsunterricht, 1972, dir. by Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub, starring Gottfried Bold, Johann Unterpertinger and Henri Ludwigg
  • Schriften zum Theater. Über eine nicht-aristotelische Dramatik, 1957
    - Aikamme teatterista (suom. Max Rand, 1965)
  • Stücke, 1956-59 (12 vols.)
  • Geschichten Vom Herrn Keuner, 1958
    - Stories of Mr. Keuner (translated by Martin Chalmers, 2001)
  • Flüchtlingsgespräche, 1961
    - Pakolaiskeskusteluja (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1976)
    - Conversations in Exile (tr. Howard Brenton, 1986)
  • Poems of the Theatre, 1961 (translated by John Berger and Anna Bostock)
  • Seven Plays, 1961 (ed. by E. Bentley)
  • Brecht on Theatre, 1964 (edited and translated by John Willett)
  • Runoja 1914-1956, 1964 (suom. Brita Polttila; 3. p. 1969)
  • The Jewish Wife and Other Short Plays, 1965 (tr. E. Bentley)
  • Prosa, 1965 (5 vols.)
  • Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner, 1965
    - Stories of Mr. Keuner (translated by Stefan S. Brecht, introduction by Martin Chalmers, 2001)
  • Me-ti. Buch der Wendungen. Fragmente 1933-1956, 1965 (ed. by Uwe Johnson)
    - Me-ti: käänteiden kirja (suom. Vesa Oittinen, 1998)
  • Schriften zur Literatur und Kunst, 1966-67 (3 vols.)
  • Gesammelte Werke, 1967 (20 vols.)
  • Schriften zur Politik und Gesellschaft, 1968
  • Texte für Filme, 1969 (2 vols.)
  • Collected Plays, 1970-72 (9 vols., edited by Ralph Manheim and John Willett)
  • Arbeitsjournal, 1973 (3 vols.)
    - Journals 1934-1955 (ed. by John Willett)
  • Tagebücher 1920-22. Autobiographische Aufzeichnungen 1920-54 - Diaries 1920-1922 (ed. and translated by John Willett, 1979)
  • Collected Poems 1913-1956, 1980 (eds. J. Willett and R. Manheim)
  • Bertolt Brecht Schriften: Über theater, 1977 (ed. Werner Hecht)
    - Kirjoituksia teatterista (suom. Anja Kolehmainen, Rauni Paalanen, Outi Valle, 1991)
  • Short Stories 1921-46, 1983 (translated by Yvonne Kapp, Hugh Rorrison, and Antony Tatlow)
  • Letters, 1990 (translated by Ralph Manheim)
  • Poems and Songs from the Plays, 1990
  • Brecht: Collected Plays, 1994-2004 (8 vols., ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim, et al.)
  • Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, Briefe 3, 1998
  • Über Verführung - Erotische Gedichte. Mit Radierungen von Pablo Picasso, 1998
  • Brecht: Plays 8, 2004 (ed. Tom Kuhn and David Constantine)

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