Brecht and Company: Sex, Politics, and the Making of the Modern Drama

John Fuegi, Author Grove Press $32.5 (732p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1529-4
Bertolt Brecht, according to this gripping, myth-shattering biography, regularly cheated his closest co-workers and lovers, publishing their literary works under his own name and concealing his wealth in secret bank accounts while posing as a penurious Communist proletarian. Many of Brecht's poems, stories and songs, plus huge sections of some of his most famous plays, were written by his lover Elisabeth Hauptmann, declares Fuegi, who bases his sensational charges on surviving manuscripts, interviews with members of Brecht's circle, contemporaneous diaries and contracts. The Threepenny Opera , he concludes, was almost exclusively the work of Hauptmann, who silently endured Brecht's exploitation, hoping he would divorce his wife and marry her. Professor of Germanic and Slavic literature at the University of Maryland and author of two previous studies on Brecht, Fuegi further argues that substantial unacknowledged contributions to other famous Brecht plays were made by two of his mistresses. Terrified of abandonment and of emotional involvement, Brecht, in Fuegi's scathing portrait, continually played his multiple lovers against one another. The author deduces that Brecht was bisexual and, from his late teens to mid-20s, preoccupied with homosexuality. A founder of the International Brecht Society, Fuegi presents Brecht as a shrewd manipulator, with close friends on both the left and the radical right, who made puny contributions to the anti-Hitler effort until the Nazis took away his German citizenship, and who remained silent while Stalin persecuted his friends in the Soviet Union. Fuegi's brilliant, graphic portrait of Brecht and his circle is certain to spark controversy. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
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