Brecht in Context’

In response to:

Aimez-Vous Brecht? from the March 15, 1984 issue

To the Editors:

James Fenton is normally an impressive and original writer, whether as poet or as theatre critic, and normally I would be flattered to be reviewed by him. But I’m afraid that part of his originality is a blinding hatred of Brecht which prevents him from seeing more than one side of that complicated subject. Thus he says nothing of Brecht’s intense fellow-feeling for Jewish people during most of his life; he never mentions Brecht’s harsh criticisms of Stalinism in his aphorisms of the Thirties and his late poems; he omits to say that my own ITI statement (which was really about Brecht and “political theatre”) was suppressed in East Berlin; and he ignores the evidence of Brecht’s real attitude to the events of 17 June 1953. Alas, Mr. Fenton sees Brecht as Antichrist and appears to find nothing worth notice that cannot be made to conform with that view: e.g., some nine-tenths of my book. All the same, I badly miss his theatre criticisms since he stopped writing in the (London) Sunday Times. Come back, James Fenton, we need you; nearly all is forgiven.

John Willett

London, England