Excerpts from short stories by Bertolt Brecht

It’s funny how a book finds you rather than the other way around. I shall be expanding on this later, but for now some of the best excerpts I’ve found so far from this collection of Brecht’s short stories. You might recognise Brecht as a German poet and playwright; he wrote the plays Baal, Life of Galileo, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Duchess of Malfi, (and Antigone which was showing in Manchester Library a while ago).

They got up and stood around in the yard, trembling with the cold for they were mostly wearing only their shifts, it all happened so damn quickly, with God turning his face away from them to have a look at the harvest in Brazil instead. (Bargan gives up)

This man had put all his money on one card and now he was defending it. But the card was a loser, and the more he put on, the more he lost; he knew all about it, but he probably just wanted to get rid of all his money, he couldn’t help it any more. That’s what happened to him, this great man, a special effort on God’s part, and it’s what could happen to any of us: you get assaulted in broad daylight, that’s how secure we all are on this planet. (Bargan gives up)

Then he got into bed. We’re not responsible, he thought. This planet is a temporary affair. It’s whizzing with all kinds of other ones, a whole range of planetary stuff, towards a star in the Milky Way. On that kind of planet we’re not responsible, he thought. But then it grew too dark in bed. (The revelation)

So the blind man walked in darkness and pondered how he could increase his sufferings in order to endure them better. For it seemed to him that a great torment was easier to bear than a small one. (The blind man)

When the captain arrived they were standing in an open space fifty metres apart, each with a carbine raised to his shoulder, and were sniping at each other in the half-light. Neither was in any danger, for they were dreadfully drunk. But everyone else was in mortal danger since the two of them, fervently and with trembling hands, were shooting holes into the morning.

If the captain had been incompetent he would have yelled and punished them but he only said: ‘You’re not hitting anything, why not beat each other up, that would make better sense.’ After which they had a drunken brawl which was a pleasure to watch. (The Lance-sergeant)

From: Collected short stories ed. Willett, J. & Manheim, R. Methuen London 1999.

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