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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Brecht: The Mask of Evil


File:Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Dahlem  Berlin Mai 2006  034.jpg

On my wall a Japanese carving hangs,
A blackgold lacquered Daemon mask.
Not unsympathetically I observe
The marks of strain upon the veins of the forehead, showing
How strenuous being evil is.

File:Musee de la bible et Terre Sainte  001.JPG

An meiner Wand hängt ein japonisches Holzwerk,
Maske eine bösen Dämons, bemalt mit Goldblack.
Mitfühlend sehe ich
Die geschwollenen Stirnadern, andeutend
Wie anstrengend es ist, böse zu sein.

File:First aid masks for CPR training.jpg

File:Masks of Death.jpg


Brecht: Die Maske des Bösen, from American Poems (1941-1947): translated by TC

Noh mask ko-tobide, Momoyama period, c. 16th c. (Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem): photo by Gryffindor, 2006
Stone mask, neolithic period, c. 7000 BC (Musee de la Bible et Terre Sainte, Paris): photo by Gryffindor, 2009
Masks in showcase of first aid supplies shop, Berlin: photo by Till Krech, 2006
Masks of Death: photo by James Reynolds, 2004
Bertolt Brecht: photo by Kolbe, 1948 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)


TC said...

Some other Brecht poems are to be found here and here.



Just got to see these now -- what happened to the day yesterday? -- such great translations from the German and Greek and . . . . and that photo of you that comes up on the link to "Jim book" -- must've been in Bolinas 'back i the day' 'like they say'. . . .

Elmo St. Rose said...

all of the faces above
could also have simply
been in pain

I never bought the idea
of Hanah Arendt's "banality
of evil" in that power
is a potent aphrodisiac,
the party, afterhours, so to

and Brecht should have been familiar
with all the faces of evil
unless he was encumbered
by ideas

TC said...


Well, er, see... that's a picture of Jim (young, of course). In Bolinas, by his little cottage, down at the foot of Mesa Road. (The knit caps made for a sort of Eucalyptus Brotherhood look, I suppose.)


Those weird latex doll masks are for CPR, I think. Mouth to mouth on the face of pain.

The happyface stone mask from the Neolithic is said to be the oldest mask ever found. But one wonders.

Masks of joy and anger and pain, were they not always around?

I've always thought of Brecht as being a step or two ahead of ideas.

For better or worse.

Curtis Roberts said...

For the last thirty minutes or so, I’ve been seriously “working” with the translation of The Mask Of Evil and I’m impressed by the power and restraint in your rendering. “How strenuous being evil is” and a “blackgold lacquered Daemon mask” are perfect solutions, I think, but they can’t and shouldn’t be separated from the rest. The assortment/gathering of masks is remarkable and might unsettle my Sunday morning, if reading the poem had not provided an elevating break from editing a complicated legal document that’s resisting perfection. Brecht’s face, so like the masks in shape, is something to behold.

TC said...


Many thanks for your always close attention, never taken for granted.

Yes, Brecht's face -- plastic (spectacles) and latex (skin) over stone?


oh my, thanks for setting my hat on straight. -- that's the smile (knit hat, knit sweater, weathered wall, did you take it?

TC said...


The photo was taken by Mary K. Greer, an old time Bolinasian pal of Jim's.


Thanks Tom, what photos do to time. . . .