Taoist Paradox and Socialist-Realist Aesthetics: Re-grounding the Galileo Complex in the 'Danish' Leben des Galilei, Brecht's Testimony from the 'finsteren Zeiten'.

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Abstract

The ‘Galileo Complex’ – the three versions of Brecht's Leben des Galilei – is examined from the perspective of the first ‘Danish’ version of 1938–9, which was conceived as a parable play. In research and production practice the third, ‘Berlin’ version of 1953–5 has always taken precedence. This corresponds both to Brecht's wish to place the emphasis in interpretation upon Galileo's failure as a scientist to resist the destructive potential of a political and economic system understood as early capitalist, as well as to the cultural-political imperative in East Berlin during the Cold War after Brecht's death to present his political and artistic development from the 1930s to the 1950s as exemplary for a socialist classic. In this way, Leben des Galilei is regarded simply as an antifascist play. Against this background, the following issues are examined: firstly, 1938 as a point when Brecht's attitude crystallised towards the USSR under Stalin during the show trials and towards the cultural politics of the KPD in Moscow during the ‘Formalismus-Streit’, which was conducted against him; secondly, the ‘Danish’ version of Leben des Galilei as a parable about the predicament of the researcher as a heretic in a theocracy during an age of reaction. On this basis, the question of a possible analogy with Stalinism as well as Nazism and other theocracies is addressed. Finally, with reference to the reception of the play amongst Brecht's acquaintances, the dramatic achievement and significance of the ‘Danish’ and ‘Berlin’ versions are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-212
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume69
Issue number2
Early online date7 Mar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2016

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