Bertolt Brecht's Biography
(Eugen) Bertolt Friedrich Brecht was born on February 10, 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria. Bertolt Brecht's main fame comes as a playwright, but he was a great poet as well.
Brecht served as a medical orderly in the last year of World War I and critics claim that his experience there of man's inhumanity to man was formative of much of his work.
Bertolt Brecht's greatest success was 'The Threepenny Opera' based on John Gay's 'Beggar's Opera' and features music by Kurt Weill. The work displays a typical disrespect of those in authority.
As Germany was turning towards the Nazis, Brecht was exploring Marxism and this influenced his work greatly in the 1930s. In 1941 he wrote 'Fear and Misery in The Third Reich' which critic, Martin Seymour-Smith, describes as "superb on the realistic level, but sickeningly disingenuous when it toes the communist line."
When Hitler gained power, Bertolt Brecht left for Denmark, which was then overrun and he escaped through Scandinavia and Russia to America. He lived in California until 1947.
Brecht was then brought before the 'Committee on Un-American Activities' and left for Zurich. The occupying powers refused him entry to West Germany, but the East Germans allowed him in, and Brecht settled in Berlin, running the Berliner Ensemble until his death in 1956.
In the introduction to the Eyre Methuen collection of about 500 of Brecht's poems, the editors say:
"Well after his death in 1956 the poet remained like an unsuspected time-bomb ticking away beneath the engine-room of world literature ... This aspect of his writing had long been concealed by the mass of his dramas, together with his theories about them ... anybody who fails to see that his language was that of a poet is missing the main motive force of all his work."
Back to Top