ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Inch Deeper into the Earth

Aparna Mahanta Bertolt Brecht: Poems 1913-1956 editied by John Willet and Ralph Manheim, with the co-operation of Erich Fried; Radha Krishna Prakashan New Delhi; First Indian Reprint, 1981; pp xxxvii + THE idea that artistic excellence is the compatible with popularity has almost" the force of an axiom in modern Western criticism. Bertolt Brecht's work has triumphantly proved the contrary, combining as it does, the complexity and profoundity associated with the greatest art with the direct appeal and ready intelligibility of the truly popular. Brecht has achieved this by redefining the concept of 'popular', repudiating the idea, prevalent among bourgeois critics, of an inert mass vacuously content with a forced diet of pulped literature and canned music, and instead thinking in terms of a class conscious proletariat in the vanguard of political and social change. As an example of intelligent working class response to art Brecht cites (Notes to Poems, p 473) the women workers In his native Augsburg, singing popular 'hit' songs and improving as they went along. Even more interesting was their critical attitude towards the songs revealed in their singing particular verses and even whole songs with a certain irony, putting quotation marks, as it were, round matter they felt was false and unreal and which they rejected. With true instinct they responded to the genuinely popular content of 'popular' song, which was indeed originally derived from folk-song and ballad, though debased in the commercial environment. These women workers regarded literature, even if only in the elementary form of song, not as fixed and immutable, but as practical activity, recreating with each rendering.

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