By Heinrich Detering, Professor, Dr. h. c., Seminar für Deutsche Philologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
When Bertolt Brecht lived near Svendborg in Denmark, he was exiled as a communist; yet he still refused to be a member of the Communist Party which he had praised in his famous poem from 1931 (“Lob der Partei”). In fact, during his Danish exile his ideological positions shifted more often and more intensely, than he dared to confess either to his German and Scandinavian friends or to his political comrades. Brecht’s interest in Daoism and Buddhism, for instance, had been of long standing and dated back to a pre-marxist time in his life. And it came into conflict with his obedience to the official party line, “under the Danish thatched roof”.
While he tried to conceal his inner conflicts in many of his official statements, his literary works are impressive documents of the opposite. The “Svendborg Poems”, his largest and most comprehensive collection of poetry, and his historical dramas “Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder” and “Leben des Galilei” display a polyphony that begins in heterogeneous literary traditions and goes on to basic patterns of the philosophy of history and of practical individual and social ethics. The extraordinary vitality and endurance, which these texts have proved throughout the history of their reception, owe a lot to this polyphony – which, as such, brought Brecht into a dangerous opposition to the Stalinist purges he tried to evade.
The talk will discuss some observations concerning this polyphony in Brecht’s Svendborg poems and dramas.
Read more about Professor Heinrich Detering on: www.heinrichdetering.de