In a conversation a few evenings ago Brecht spoke of the curious indecision which at the moment prevents him from making any definite plans. As he is the first to point out, the main reason for this indecision is that his situation is so much more privileged than that of most other refugees. Therefore, since in general he scarcely admits that emigration can be a proper basis for plans and projects, he refuses all the more radically to admit it as such in his own particular case. His plans reach out to the period beyond emigration. There, he is faced with two alternatives. On the one hand there are some prose projects waiting to be done: the shorter one of the Ui—a satire on Hitler in the style of the Renaissance biographers—and the long one of the Tui novel. This is to be an encyclopedic survey of the follies of the Tellectual-Ins (intellectuals); it seems that it will be set, in part at least, in China. A small model for this work is already completed. But besides these prose projects he is also preoccupied by others, dating back to very old studies and ideas. Whereas he was able, at a pinch, to set down in his notes and introductions to the Versuche
Yesterday Brecht left for London. Whether it is that my presence offers peculiar temptations in this respect, or whether Brecht is now generally more this way inclined than before, at all events his aggressiveness (which he himself calls ‘baiting’) is now much more pronounced in conversation than it used to be. Indeed, I am struck by a special vocabulary engendered by this aggressiveness. In particular, he is fond of using the term W�en (little sausage). In Dragør I was reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. To start with he blamed this choice of reading for my being unwell. As confirmation he told how, in his youth, a prolonged illness (which had doubtless been latent for a long time) had begun when a schoolfellow had played Chopin to him on the piano and he had not had the strength to protest. Brecht thinks that Chopin and Dostoyevsky have a particularly adverse effect on people’s health. In other ways, too, he missed no opportunity of needling me about my reading matter, and as he himself was reading Schweyk at the time he insisted on making comparative value judgements of the two authors.It became evident that Dostoyevsky simply could not measure up to Hašek, and Brecht included him without further ado among the W�en; only a little more and he would have
I was in a labyrinth of stairs. This labyrinth was not entirely roofed over. I climbed; other stairways led downwards. On a landing I realized that I had arrived at a summit. A wide view of many lands opened up before me. I saw other men standing on other peaks. One of these men was suddenly seized by dizziness and fell. The dizziness spread; others were now falling from other peaks into the depths below. When I too became dizzy I woke up.
On 22 June I arrived at Brecht’s.
Brecht speaks of the elegance and nonchalance of Virgil’s and Dante’s basic attitude, which, he says, forms the backdrop to Virgil’s majestic gestus. He calls both Virgil and Dante ‘promeneurs’. Emphasizing the classic rank of the Inferno, he says: ‘You can read it out of doors.’
He speaks of his deep-rooted hatred of priests, a hatred he inherited from his grandmother. He hints that those who have appropriated the theoretical doctrines of Marx and taken over their management will always form a clerical camarilla. Marxism lends itself all too easily to ‘interpretation’. Today it is a hundred years old and what do we find? (At this point the conversation was interrupted.) ‘ “ The State must wither away.” Who says that? The State.’ (Here he can only mean the Soviet Union.) He assumes a cunning, furtive expression, puts himself in front of the chair in which I am sitting—he is impersonating ‘the State’—and says, with a sly, side-long glance at an imaginary interlocutor: ‘I know I ought to wither away.’
A conversation about new Soviet novels. We no longer read them. The talk then turns to poetry and to the translations of poems from various languages in the ussr with which Das Wort is flooded. He says the poets over there are having a hard time. ‘If Stalin’s name doesn’t crop up in a poem, that’s interpretedas a sign of ill intent.’