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Bertolt Brecht
German dramatist

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And when she was finished they laid her in earth
Flowers growing, butterflies juggling over her...
She, so light, barely pressed the earth down
How much pain it took to make her as light as that!
-- 'Song about my mother' [Meine Mutter] (May 1920), translated by John Willett

Marie Farrar: month of birth, April
Died in the Meissen penitentiary
An unwed mother, judged by the law, she will
Show you how all that lives, lives frailly.
You who bear your sons in laundered linen sheets
And call your pregnancies a "blessed" state
Should never damn the outcast and the weak:
Her sin was heavy, but her suffering great.
Therefore, I beg, make not your anger manifest
For all that lives needs help from all the rest.
-- 'Of the infanticide Marie Farrar' [Von der Kindesmörderin Marie Farrar] (1920) from Devotions (1922-1927); translated by Sidney H. Bremer in Poems, 1913-1956.

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white.
Just a jackknife has Macheath, dear,
And he keeps it out of sight.
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), prologue, 'The Ballad of Mack the Knife'

My business is too difficult. My business is trying to arouse human pity. There are few things that'll move people to pity, a few, but the trouble is when they've been used several times, they no longer work. So it happens, for instance, that a man who sees another man on the street corner with only a stump for an arm will be so shocked the first time that he'll give him sixpence. But the second time it'll only be a threepenny bit. And if he sees him a third time, he'll hand him over cold-bloodedly to the police.
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), act 1, sc. 1

Food comes first, then morals.
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), act 2, sc. 3, 'What Keeps Mankind Alive'

For once you must try not to shirk the facts:
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts.
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), act 2, sc. 6, 'What Keeps Mankind Alive'

The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don't understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), act 3, sc. 1

For the task assigned them
Men aren't smart enough or sly
Any rogue can blind them
With a clever lie.
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), act 3, scene 1, 'The Song of the Futility of All Human Endeavor'

What is robbing a bank compared to founding a bank?
-- The Threepenny Opera (1928), act 3, sc. 3

There are men who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.
-- The Mother (1930)

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
-- 'Questions From A Worker Who Reads' (1935)

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out 'stop!'.
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
-- 'When evil-doing comes like falling rain' [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt] (1935), translated by John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956.

The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set some limit on infinite error.
-- The Life of Galileo (1939), sc. 9

Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.
-- The Life of Galileo (1939), sc. 13

One observes, they have gone on too long without a war here. Where is morality to come from in such a case, I ask? Peace is nothing but slovenliness, only war creates order.
Alternative translation:
What they could do with round here is a good war. What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization.
-- Mother Courage and Her Children (1939), sc. 1

When he told men to love their neighbr, their bellies were full. Nowadays things are different.
-- Mother Courage and Her Children (1939), sc. 2

Because I don't trust him we are friends.
-- Mother Courage and Her Children (1939), sc. 3

The finest plans are ruined by the littleness of those who ought to carry them out, for the Emperors can actually do nothing.
-- Mother Courage and Her Children (1939), sc. 6

War always finds a way.
-- Mother Courage and Her Children (1939), sc. 6

Don't tell me peace has broken out, when I've just bought some new supplies.
-- Mother Courage and Her Children (1939), sc. 8

Yes, we went, as often changing countries as changing shoes,
Through the wars of the classes, despairing
Each time we found an abuse, and no sense of outrage.
-- 'To Those Born Later' (1939)

Wer jetzt noch lacht, hat die neuesten Nachrichten noch nicht gehört.
English translation:
The man who laughs has simply not yet had the terrible news.
-- 'To Those Born Later' (1939)

Show interest in her goodness — for no one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand.
-- The Good Person of Sezuan (1943), sc. 1a

Unless an actor is satisfied to be a parrot or a monkey he must master our period's knowledge of human social life by himself joining the war of the classes. Some people may feel this is
degrading, because they rank art, once the money side has been settled, as one of the highest things; but mankind's highest decisions are in fact fought out on earth, not in the heavens; in the 'external world', not inside people's heads. Nobody can stand above the warring classes, for nobody can stand above the human race. Society cannot share a common communication system so long as it is split into warring classes. Thus for art to be 'unpolitical' means only to ally itself with the 'ruling' group.
-- A Short Organum for the Theatre (1949)

Some party hack decreed that the people
had lost the government's confidence
and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
If that is the case, would it not be simpler,
If the government simply dissolved the people
And elected another?
-- 'The Solution' (c. 1953), George Tabori, tr. (This poem is commenting on the uprising by East Germans in 1953 against the occupying Soviet troops.)

It isn't important to come out on top; what matters is to come out alive.
-- Jungle of the Cities and Other Plays (1966)

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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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