• I have been informed that in New York City,
  • At the corner of Broadway and 26th Street,
  • Every evening during the winter
  • A man solicits money from those passing by
  • So a few homeless souls can have a bed for the night.
  • The world will not be changed by this act.
  • It won’t make class warfare any less brutal
  • Nor will it hasten the end of man’s exploitation of man.
  • Nonetheless, a few more souls will have a bed
  • for the night and will not have to lie in the cold wind.
  • The freezing snow will fall on streets they’ve escaped.
  • Friend, do not shut this book so quickly.
  • A few more souls will have a bed for the night.
  • They will not have to shiver in that cold wind.
  • Snow will fall on streets from which they’ve escaped.
  • No, it won’t change the world.
  • It won’t make class warfare any less brutal,
  • Or bring to an end man’s exploitation of man.  

— Translated by Hillary Ogden

Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956) was an important German poet and one of the greatest and most influential playwrights of the 20th Century. In 1916, Brecht’s newspaper articles began appearing under the new name “Bert Brecht.” His first full-length play, Baal, appeared in 1922 and not long afterward Brecht was awarded the Kleist Prize, probably Germany’s most significant literary award. With the assistance of a theater collective that he had formed, Brecht adapted John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, with Brecht’s lyrics set to music by Kurt Weill. Retitled The Threepenny Opera, it was a sensational success and remains to this day a major theatrical influence throughout the world. Fearing persecution, Brecht left Germany in February 1933, when Hitler took power. He went first to Denmark, then fled to Sweden, Finland, and then to the United States. A fiercely politicized Marxist and champion of the working class and the poor, Brecht was blacklisted by movie studios during the McCarthy anticommunist purges in the late 1940s, and he was eventually interrogated by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. The day after he gave his testimony to that committee, Brecht returned to Europe. Living in Berlin, he briefly supported the Soviet domination of East Germany but soon became disillusioned with its stifling, authoritarian character. Brecht died on August 14, 1956, of a heart attack at the age of 58. “A Bed for the Night” was written in the years between 1929 and 1933.

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