Brecht in Plastic

In response to:

Brecht in Asphalt from the February 5, 1981 issue

To the Editors:

In Robert Brustein’s review of Bertolt Brecht in America by James Lyon [NYR, February 5] the following statement appeared: “Albert Maltz complained of his [Brecht’s] ‘contentious arrogance’ and of the smell emanating from his unwashed body….” The latter part of the sentence is an accurate paraphrasing by Brustein of what I told Lyon when he interviewed me seven or eight years ago. My conclusion that Brecht disliked bathing was based upon my contact with him in 1935 when I unavoidably had to sit beside him in the Theatre Union during portions of several rehearsals of Mother.

However, about three years ago I happened to mention this to Marta Feuchtwanger, who had known Brecht well for many years and whose husband, in fact, had once collaborated on a play with him. She told me I was wrong, that Brecht suffered from a physiologic condition that caused his feet to give off a very unpleasant odor, but apparently not all the time. Unfortunately, due to the interval of some years, I didn’t recall that I had told Lyon my mistaken conclusion. I regret that my error has appeared in his book as a fact, but I am sure he will correct it in his later editions.

Albert Maltz

Los Angeles, California