John Fuegi's biography Brecht & Co. is producing immense media excitement in Germany
The myth of Bertolt Brecht as poor, wise and generous has definitely been destroyed. Shortly before Brecht's 100th birthday on February 10, 1998, a German edition of the biography Brecht & Co. by American John Fuegi appeared. The literary attack on the poet and dramatist, by the 61-year-old professor of literature from Maryland, has the German media in a fury.
Brecht & Co. is the result of 25 years of meticulous research by the first person to have access to Brecht's papers, which are stored at Harvard, allowing him the opportunity to analyze materials which have long been inaccessible. The book has been revised for the German publication. The main focus is laid on the question of authorship. Here Fuegi exaggerates long-known facts: It's no secret that the hard-working Brecht-Factory co-produced the label B.B. Fuegi's thesis is: sex for text. Brecht's mistresses did not only do research for their master; very often they were the main authors or the co-authors of poems, prose writing or plays, that are regarded as Brecht's own works. Elisabeth Hauptmann, to whom John Fuegi dedicated his book, wrote 80 % of the Beggar's Opera. Marieluise Fleißer, Ruth Berlau and Margarete Steffin were exploited and cheated out of their dues in a similar way. But the precise manner in which the Brecht-Factory functioned, or the question why Brecht's women depended on this forever faithless man -- to the point of despair and suicide -- to these questions John Fuegi does not provide sufficient answers.
In Germany, where Brecht has been called a puritan, accused of political correctness, and criticized for blending philologist insights with moral judgements, this book has caused tremendous controversy. Nevertheless, Fuegi's book marks a caesura in Brecht-studies.
--By Sandra Luzina