Donald Sassoon

Only Half Marx

Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life

By

Bloomsbury 689pp £30 order from our bookshop

What a predicament it is to be an artist or a writer. You are never fully in control of your productions. You paint a cheerful Florentine housewife and, a few centuries later, some jumped-up critic decides she is a castrating femme fatale. You write an opera on Switzerland’s national hero and the overture is endlessly used in stuff like The Lone Ranger and Yankee Doodle Daffy. The worst fate is that of the playwright. You write a text with, at most, a few notes on scenery and cast (exits, enters). Then the product is snatched from your hands by actors, designers and directors. It becomes their play. You sit in a corner sulking or, more frequently, you turn in your grave. Pity, then, Bertolt Brecht, who regarded himself,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,