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Bertolt Brecht Hates LA, Part 6

In Bertolt Brecht hates LA on August 6, 2009 at 5:31 am

Excerpt from “Hollywood Elegies”

II

By the sea stand the oil derricks. Up the canyons
The gold prospectors’ bones lie bleaching. Their sons
Built the dream factories of Hollywood.
The four cities
Are filled with the oily smell
Of films.

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Bertotl Brecht Hates L.A., Part 1

In Bertolt Brecht hates LA on June 27, 2009 at 7:19 am

Excerpts from Journals 1941

“I feel as if I had been exhiled from our era, this is Tahiti in the form of a big city: at this very moment I am looking out on to a little garden with a lawn, shrubs with red blossom, a palm tree and white garden furniture, and a male voice is singing something sentimental to piano accompaniment — it’s not a wireless, they have nature here, indeed, since everything is so artificial, they even have an exaggerated feeling for nature, which becomes alienated, from Dieterle’s house you can see the San Fernando Valley: an incessant, brilliantly illuminated stream of cars thunders through nature; but they tell you that all the greenery is wrested from the desert by irrigation systems.  Scratch the surface a little and the desert shows through: stop paying the water bills and everything stops blooming: the butchery 15,000 kilometres away, which is deciding our fate right across Europe at its broadest point, is only an echo in the hubbub of the art-market here.”

“…this masoleum of easy going…”

“They really are nomads, they change professions like shoes, build houses to last 20 years and don’t stay that long, so that home isn’t any specific locality.  Not for nothing has the great disorder spread so luxuriantly here.”

“…the delicacy of the upstarts…”

“Oh course the soil here is not conducive to developing talent.”

Bertotl Brecht Hates L.A., Part 2

In Bertolt Brecht hates LA on June 27, 2009 at 7:18 am

Journals, 1942:

“Odd, I can’t breath in this climate.  The air is totally odorless, morning and evening, in both house and garden.  There are no seasons here.  It has been part of my morning routine to lean out of the window and breathe in fresh air; I have cut this out of my routine here.  There is neither smoke nor the smell of grass to be had, the plants seems to me like twigs we used to plant in the sand as children.  After ten minutes their leaves were dangling limply.  You keep wondering if they might cut off the water, even here, and what then? Occasionally, especially in the car going to Beverly Hills, I get something like a whiff of landscape, which ‘really’ seems attractive; gentle lines of hills, lemon thickets, a Californian oak, even one or other of the filling -stations can actually be rather amusing; but all this lies behind plate glass, and I involuntarily look at each hill or lemon tree for a little price tag.  You look for these price tags on people too.”

“Remarkable how in this place a universally depraving, cheap prettiness prevents people from living in a halfway cultivated fashion, i.e. living with dignity.  In my garden-house in Utting, and even under my Danish thatched roof, it was possible to browse over the bellum gallicum in the morning.  Here it would be utter snobbery.”

Bertotl Brecht Hates L.A., Part 3

In Bertolt Brecht hates LA on June 27, 2009 at 7:17 am

Journals ‘42:

“The elements that go to make up the way of life here are ignoble.  It must be the lack of dignity in the conditions of production that renders everything banal here, if anywhere, detachment is necessary but nobody respects it.  Eating, looking at a landscape, conversation, writing a book, reading a book, business, all these things have quite a different purpose here, one that does not smell too nice, and is not dignified or self-sufficient.”

“To write poetry, even topical poetry here amounts to withdrawing into an ivory tower.  It is like plying the art of the goldsmith.  There is something quaint, something oddball, something limited about it.  It is like putting a message in a bottle, the battle for smolensk is a battle for poetry too.”

Bertotl Brecht Hates L.A., Part 4

In Bertolt Brecht hates LA on June 27, 2009 at 7:15 am

From journals while living in exhile (in Santa Monica), 1942:

“…(one) need only look around to see that affluence alone does not create culture, for is there not affluence here, and is there any culture?”

Bertotl Brecht Hates L.A., Part 5

In Bertolt Brecht hates LA on June 21, 2009 at 7:40 am

“Winge…reads a few of the HOLLYWOOD ELEGIES which I have written for Eisler, and says, ‘it’s as if they had been written from Mars.’  We discover that this ‘detachment’ is not a peculiarity of the writer’s, but a product of this town: its inhabitants nearly all have it.  These houses don’t become somebody’s property by being lived in, but by means of a cheque, the owner doesn’t so much live in them as have them at his disposal.  The houses are extensions of the garage.”