Brecht and Company: Sex, Politics, and the Making of the Modern Drama.
Suggesting that Brecht or male artists in general have taken advantage of women's talents is not a new idea. Brecht & Company is clearly directed at charging Brecht with this offense. Fuegi not only accuses Brecht of intellectual thievery, but also claims Brecht undermined his collaborators' self-esteem and boycotted their efforts to break away, fearing to lose them as valuable means of production. Fuegi does not want to acknowledge that Hauptmann, Steffin, and Berlau "produced" as long as they were associated with Brecht. Undoubtedly it was his collaborative working style, his ability to inspire and direct others which ultimately led to the production of the texts. Fuegi may have proof for his claim that Brecht pocketed the royalties. However, the charge that he contributed very little to the works published under his name is certainly questionable. Comments pertaining to Brecht's political role are equally dubious. Fuegi accuses Stalin, Brecht, and the East German government of deceiving the public, a remark which overrates Brecht's impact on the politics of that state. Fuegi further loses credibility when he compares Brecht to Hitler, claiming that they shared similar characteristics. In Fuegi's assertions, the two not only used the same rhetoric but also "radiated sensuality" and "intense charisma," which helps explain their ability to influence and control people.
One may note that John Fuegi is very knowledgeable on Brecht: he spent many years compiling data, interviewing former members of the Brecht collective, recording oral and written testimony, and examining documents on both sides of the Atlantic. However, his continual rhetorical assertions are disturbing. Chapter titles such as "Master, What Grounds Do You Have for Your Antipathy toward Women?" or "He's Behaved, in the Worst Word I Can Find, Like a 'Hitlerite'" are typical of Fuegi's rhetoric when he tries to persuade his readers through special pleading rather than to inform them. In his concluding remarks Fuegi explains that one of the purposes of his book has been to pay homage to the women whose names have been missing in anthologies and card catalogues "as authors of importance." Unfortunately, this noble intent has led him to misinterpret data to reflect the current trend of political correctness. Whether one agrees or disagrees with John Fuegi, his book is worth reading. A glance at the lengthy reviews which have appeared in major journals in both Germany and the United States since its publication shows that Brecht & Company has revitalized the dialogue on Bertolt Brecht.
Gudrun Tabbert-Jones Santa Clara University
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|Publication:||World Literature Today|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1995|
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