This weekend I was in Berlin, to have fun, meet people, and get some informal cultural education. The latter part I mostly spent tracking Bertold Brecht's last years in East Berlin. After exile and a run-in with McCarthy's paranoid minions, Brecht returned to Europe and finally to East Berlin in 1949. But after the war, hardly a theater or hall was left there. Just the Admiralspalast stood as a sole survivor in the rubble around Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, and most was left of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (later Berliner Ensemble) - others were ruins, hollow shells of buildings or mounds of burned rubble.
Brecht stayed anyway, produced as best he could, fought the authorities on many occasions, wrote and directed plays, re-arranged his life several times as he re-arranged his (many) women, and stressed himself to an early death in 1956.
Last night, I watched one of his plays. „Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg“, on Brecht's old stage, the Berliner Ensemble. The story is hard to explain to anyone who doesn't know the character of The Good Soldier Schweyk.
The one who pretends to be dumb but cleverly undermines the authority of tyrants by agreeing with them on the surface, and evading/fighting them with cunning and stealth. To me he’s a modern form of the archetypical character of the Trickster (Coyote, Brer Rabbit, Loki, Fox, Anansi, Nasreddin, Till Eulenspiegel... ...do all cultures have their incarnation of the Trickster?).
Brecht wrote his play during WW II. The story and its characters - it's pure genius. Funny and sad, truthful and ironic, simple yet multi-layered, historically correct and visionary. The Berliner Ensemble production was congenial in casting and staging. Art at its best: Entertaining enough so I never felt lectured, yet I learned a lot about difficult times and the nature of people, and it made me think. Today, I am very glad to live now and here, and not in a time or place where I might have to choose between morals and survival.