MANUAL OF PIETY by Bertolt Brecht


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While Random House prepares a comprehensive edition of the works of Bertolt Brecht, the Grove project rolls merrily on with early drum-beater and guardian of the faith, Eric Bentley, at the wheel. Alas, Professor Bentley, leading Brechtian authority though he be, is not particularly gifted in Englishing Die Hauspostille, Brecht's youthful, iconoclastic masterpiece. As Bentley rightly notes: ""What the translations lack in poetry can only be supplied by a poet, and at that a poet who miraculously happens to be Brecht reincarnated."" Something like the ""Grosser Dankchoral,"" with its terribly austere parody of the liturgically sublime seems heavy-handed in the Bentley version. And the most celebrated of the ""On Poor B.B."" poems does not match the transcription H.R. Hays has given us. With a few of the ballads, (especially the Cortez and Love-Death ones), Bentley proves quite impressive, probably because the original imagery, descriptive dramatics, and narrative rhythms offer less risks in reproduction than the rhymed, tone-shifting, quasi-syncopated lyrics do. Nevertheless, the Manual's punning extravaganza of social ills and pietistic rubbish manages cumulatively to hit home. Included are the songs made famous here by Lotte Lenya.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1966
Publisher: Grove