Sunday, 10 February 2008

Happy birthday Bertolt Brecht - 110

Were he alive today the poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht would be 110 years old.
Poet-in-Residence pays tribute with Brecht's famous World War II poem - 'In Dark Times'. The question raised by Brecht in the poem still needs anwering. Translation from the German is by Humphrey Milnes.

In Dark Times

They won't say: when the walnut tree shook in the wind
But: when the house-painter crushed the workers.
They won't say: when the child skimmed a flat stone across the rapids
But: when the great wars were being prepared for.
They won't say: when the woman came into the room
But: when the great powers joined forces against the workers.
However, they won't say: the times were dark
Rather: why were their poets silent?

The house-painter reference is a reference to Adolf Hitler the aspiring artist who failed the entrance exam for the Vienna School of Art and was reduced to painting postcard pictures of playhouses, official buildings and so on. Some of these paintings were sold on Hitler's behalf by Neumann a Jewish resident at a hostel in Vienna where the two were ensconced. He became Hitler's best friend, gave Hitler a coat and also lent him money. In this way Hitler was kept going as he waited impatiently for his inheritance and dodged Austrian military service.

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