Something about Bertolt Brecht — Jon Marcantoni

is what you wanted me to write, correct? I had stated during one of our transatlantic midnight conversations—or was it a public statement—or was it telepathic—regardless, at some time in the twilight of the past year, I said this thing about the great German playwright and how I misunderstood him, and you thought that in my misunderstanding that, perhaps, I understood you? No, that wasn’t it? What was I saying, oh yes, my time in Cuba when I recognized some deep truths about myself, truths involving alienation, being out of place, of holding on to misery rather than appreciating the good that comes out of travel, no matter that things don’t go the way one plans, and that I was making my own hell, but in doing so, I was also fully aware of this hell-making

which has me thinking of something else, that I have become so inundated with the modern cause célébre that involves not just expressing every little thought but expressing the thinking of such thoughts, turning what is meta into an uber-meta state, where we as a society are so overexposed and overanalyzed that the very act of analysis and self-awareness is an abuse of such analysis

but you wanted to hear about Brecht, you wanted my thoughts on a dead playwright who trafficked in stories of self-awareness, stories whose sole mission was to expose the phoniness of art, the intellectual attachment to fictions, the artificial realities we as humans care more about than the fucked up reality we live in, and you wanted my opinion because I have answers

which implies that I knew the question to begin with. Bertold —can I call you Bertold? even if that’s not your name, just to confuse the readers, can I?— well I was just reading your latest, which I love and I hate to admit that you are one of the few writers who, whenever I read your work, I kick myself for not having created it first, which to do so, requires me to recognize that your worlds are a creation and your characters a fiction—what was I saying, oh yes, a compliment, you deserve a compliment because I am jealous of you and your abilities but I also love you and our friendship so I refuse to compromise the continuation of said friendship due to petty jealousy whose origin may or may not have to do with self-hatred and a Catholicism-induced hyper-humility—I won’t do that, because, of course, we are friends

and friends explain things, friends tell stories with definitive meanings to justify our interactions, and what did this have to do with Brecht, well, I suppose it started with me falling in love with someone, someone who greatly appreciates the meta of life, and who would be impressed by my knowledge of Brecht, and what’s more, my deconstruction of such a literary figure, and maybe what I said was a personal challenge to do something to impress her (if she even existed, because when we fall in love we find we love the idea as much as the person, and being that I watched a Hitchcock movie once about creating the perfect woman, and a few days later I read an essay by a man who lived as an absolute celibate, wouldn’t even touch himself, until the day that he did, and having expended his energy and freed himself from anticipation, found himself staring at the ceiling mourning, crying buckets, he said, because his entire life had revolved around an anticipation which was now gone, he’d have to wait another odd number of years to build up that anticipation once again but it wouldn’t be the same, since, like every drug user knows, once you have that first time you will never reach the same ecstasy ever again—the combination of Hitchcock and this essay has made me realize that I could have made this woman up, our infatuation a mere fancy of the imagination, our flirtation a manifestation of longing—for touch, connection, sex, or conversations that are like sex, which is to say, usually a disappointment, except when it’s not—and wouldn’t you make up such a person if by doing so you filled a void, which we won’t talk about here, but girls for men often function the same way voids do for literary depth), since she is the type of person who loves intellectual engagement and the wordplay of ideas, which also makes me love her, or it makes me love myself, or it makes me love the type of woman who would love me, if I loved myself—It was only later that I considered the connection, this observation about how I thought Brecht’s work was a failure because his stories elicit sympathy for his characters even as he tries to create separation and awareness of his character’s fictitious natures, but that in reality the failure is on the part of the audience for not being able to let go of our primal attachments to characters as if they are real people. Brecht was right, the audience was wrong, or not advanced or evolved enough to fully appreciate what a genius his work was. Brecht, who likely knew he was a genius, also knew what he was doing, because it is quite unlikely that he didn’t know, which also means he must have known that he was ahead of his time, a time that hasn’t even arrived at the hour of this printing, when humans recognize the falsehood of myths and attachments to mythological creations of the imagination that rule our lives—we are so controlled by superstitions and false gods and goddesses, yet here was this man in mid-20th century Germany, the height of narcissistic cults of personality—challenging his audience to liberate themselves from the bonds of myth

which may have also had something to do with religion, as all things do, as relationships do, even when we don’t follow them we do everything possible to adhere to standards based in the belief that a mythological creature will smite thee if you don’t do their bidding, and we base love on that, we base friendship on that, we base careers and social niceties on a lie we know is a lie but knowing it is a lie does not diminish its effectiveness

which is why Brecht still matters, which is what I meant to say, and forget what I said about trying to impress a girl I love, or connect on yet a deeper level to a friend who would be a friend regardless, and especially forget that thing about Brecht, like so many other late night reveries, we couldn’t stop ourselves from making the mistakes we knew we were making.


Jon Marcantoni is a Puerto Rican novelist, playwright, and co-founder of La Casita Grande Editores, a small press dedicated to experimental Latin American literature. His work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Across the Margin, Minor Lits, and Latin Rebels, amongst others. He has also appeared in the Huffington Post, El Nuevo Día, El Post Antillano, Washington Post, and NBC Latino. He could be lying however, this bio is on the internet, which we all know can’t be trusted—except when it can—do you trust yourself to trust this bio?

Image: Emanuele Toscano, Shadows, Creative Commons