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Bertolt Brecht

Visat núm. 2
(octubre 2006)
by Feliu Formosa
It is difficult to summarise in a few words a work of translation which has so far reached three volumes of over seven hundred pages of the Complete Plays (the third is pending publication), done by the Institut del Teatre, and which has yet to include a couple more volumes.

Leaving to one side the translation of poems and songs, of narrative fiction and some non-fiction texts which have been translated over the last forty years, Brecht's plays show considerable diversity as regards their dramatic structures and their language. If we compare, for example, a juvenile piece such as Baal (1919) with The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1944/45), which is perhaps the last of Brecht's great plays, they barely seem to be written by the same author. And in between there is a trajectory full of ups and downs, marked at every moment by historical events which condition it along the way. From his controversial beginnings – that incisive, graphic, poignant, and formally innovative Brecht of the early post-war period, we pass to the Brecht who, through its collaboration with the musician Kurt Weill ( The Threepenny Opera and Mahagonny , 1927-30), continues to formulate his theory of the epic theatre, and begins using a language which is more neutral and functional than that of the “didactic pieces”, and achieves a synthesis of all the previous languages with the great works written in exile. We are dealing here, therefore, with an author who is both polyhedral and unmistakable, because he doesn't reject a form of language which takes into account the “voices on the street” and which is characterised by its “musicality”. Like the great lyric poet that he is, Brecht the playwright constantly presents his translators with problems of rhythm which cannot be ignored. I have tried and still try to bear this in mind for the present edition of his Complete Plays translated by Joan Fontcuberta, Clara Formosa, Ramon Monton, Carme Serrallonga, Isabel Negre, Anna Soler Horta, Heike van Lawick, Pilar Estelrich and myself as translator, co-ordinator and reviser. 

Catalan Writing [Barcelona: ILC; PEN Català] 16-17 (novembre 2002) pàg 50


Translated by Mathew Tree
Bertolt Brecht
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