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Bertolt Brecht: A Primer

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"I am a city still, but soon I shan’t be –

Where generations used to live and die

Before those deadly birds flew in to haunt me:

One thousand years to build. A fortnight to destroy."

Bertolt Brecht's War Primer is a terrifying series of short poems by one of the world’s leading playwrights, set to images of World War II. It presents a devastating visual and lyrical attack on war under modern capitalism. 

War Primer is 40% off, along with all our related Brecht reading, until Sunday June 11 (midnight UTC). Click here to activate your discount.

 

War Primer by Bertolt Brecht. Edited by John Willett

In this singular book written during World War Two, Bertolt Brecht presents a devastating visual and lyrical attack on war under modern capitalism.

He takes photographs from newspapers and popular magazines, and adds short lapidary verses to each in a unique attempt to understand the truth of war using mass media.

Pictures of catastrophic bombings, propaganda portraits of leading Nazis, scenes of unbearable tragedy on the battlefield — all these images contribute to an anthology of horror, from which Brecht’s perceptions are distilled in poems that are razor-sharp, angry and direct.

The result is an outstanding literary memorial to World War Two and one of the most spontaneous, revealing and moving of Brecht’s works.

Benjamin and Brecht: The Story of a Friendship by Erdmut Wizisla

Translated by Christine Shuttleworth

A fascinating account of the friendship between two of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century.

Germany in the mid 1920s, a place and time of looming turmoil, brought together Walter Benjamin—acclaimed critic and extraordinary literary theorist—and Bertolt Brecht, one of the twentieth century’s most influential playwrights. It was a friendship that would shape their writing for the rest of their lives.

In this groundbreaking work, Erdmut Wizisla explores what this relationship meant for them personally and professionally, as well as the effect it had on those around them. From the first meeting between Benjamin and Brecht to their experiences in exile, these eventful lives are illuminated by personal correspondence, journal entries and private miscellany—including previously unpublished materials—detailing the friends’ electric discussions of their collaboration.

Aesthetics and Politics by Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, and Georg Lukács

Afterword by Fredric Jameson

An intense and lively debate on literature and art between thinkers who became some of the great figures of twentieth-century philosophy and literature.

Brecht and Method by Fredric Jameson

The legacy of Bertolt Brecht is much contested, whether by those who wish to forget or to vilify his politics, but his stature as the outstanding political playwright and poet of the twentieth century is unforgettably established in this major critical work. Fredric Jameson elegantly dissects the intricate connections between Brecht's drama and politics, demonstrating the way these combined to shape a unique and powerful influence on a profoundly troubled epoch.

Understanding Brecht by Walter Benjamin

Translated by Anna Bostock

Introduction by Stanley Mitchell

In Understanding Brecht we find collected together Benjamin’s most sensitive and probing writing on the dramatic and poetic work of his friend and tutor. Stimulated by Brecht’s oeuvre and theorising his particular dramatic techniques—such as the famous ‘estrangement effect’—Benjamin developed his own ideas about the role of art and the artist in crisis-ridden society. This volume contains Benjamin’s introductions to Brecht’s theory or epic theatre and close textual analyses of twelve poems by Brecht (printed in translation here) which exemplify Benjamin’s insistence that literary form and content are indivisible. Elsewhere Benjamin discusses the plays The Mother, Terror and Misery of the Third Reich, and The Threepenny Opera, digressing for some general remarks on Marx and satire.

Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton is one of the most important—and most radical—theorists writing today. In this new edition of his groundbreaking treatise on literary theory, Eagleton seeks to develop a sophisticated relationship between Marxism and literary criticism. Ranging across the key works of Raymond Williams, Lenin, Trotsky, Brecht, Adorno, Benjamin, Lukacs and Sartre, he develops a nuanced critique of traditional literary criticism while producing a compelling theoretical account of ideology.

Cultural Resistance Reader

Edited by Stephen Duncombe

This expansive and carefully crafted reader brings together many of the classic texts that help to define culture as a tool of resistance. With illuminating introductions throughout, it presents a range of theoretical and historical writings that have influenced contemporary debate, providing tools for the reader's own interventions. In these pages can be found the work of Karl Marx, Matthew Arnold, Antonio Gramsci, C.L.R. James, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Virginia Woolf, Mikhail Bakhtin, Stuart Hall, Christopher Hill, Janice Radway, Eric Hobsbawm, Abbie Hoffman, Mahatma Gandhi, Dick Hebdige, Hakim Bey, Raymond Williams, Robin Kelley, Tom Frank and more than a dozen others, including a number of new activists/authors published here for the first time.

Two Girls: And Other Essays by Roberto Schwarz

Edited by Francis Mulhern. Introduction by Francis Mulhern 

Roberto Schwarz is the foremost literary critic of his generation in Brazil and the most important Marxist practitioner in the tradition of the Frankfurt School writing anywhere today. This collection confirms the international significance of Schwarz’s critical achievement.

Studies of Kafka and Brecht respectively open and close the volume, which includes incisive studies of contemporary poetry and fiction in Brazil.

For Marx by Louis Althusser

Translated by Ben Brewster

This is the work in which Louis Althusser formulated some of his most influential ideas. For Marx, first published in France in 1968, has come to be regarded as the founding text of the school of “structuralist Marxism” which was presided over by the fascinating and enigmatic figure of Louis Althusser.

This book contains the classic statements of Althusser's analysis of the young Marx and the importance of Feuerbach during this formative period, of his thesis of the “epistomological break” between the early and the late Marx, and of his conception of dialectics, contradiction and “overdetermination.” Also included is a study of the materialist theater of Bertolazzi and Brecht and the critique of humanist readings of Marxism.

Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America by Jean-Michel Palmier

Translated by David Fernbach 

In 1933 thousands of intellectuals, artists, writers, militants and other opponents of the Nazi regime fled Germany. They were, in the words of Heinrich Mann, “the best of Germany,” refusing to remain citizens in this new state that legalized terror and brutality.

Exiled across the world, they continued the fight against Nazism in prose, poetry, painting, architecture, film and theater. Weimar in Exile follows these lives, from the rise of national socialism to their return to a ruined homeland, retracing their stories, struggles, setbacks and rare victories.

The dignity in exile of Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Döblin, Hanns Eisler, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Anna Seghers, Ernst Toller, Stefan Zweig and many others provides a counterpoint to the story of Germany under the Nazis.

All the books on this list are 40% off until June 11 (midnight UTC). Click here to activate your discount.

War Primer is launched on June 27 at the London Review Bookshop with Esther Leslie, Tom Kuhn and Gareth Evans. Book tickets here