• Madison White

A Story a Day #27: Bertolt Brecht

March 4th, 2020

"The Augsburg Chalk Circle"

Bertolt Brecht

During a raid, a father and mother leave their young child. The servant girl finds him and attempts to take him to where the mother is because the father has been killed. It is said that she is not there although the servant girl suspects otherwise. The girl takes the child and goes to live on her brother's property. Eventually, they decide to have her married so people will be less suspicious. They choose a very sick man thinking he will die soon, but after they are married, he makes a full recovery. They do not like each other, but tolerate each other. At one point, she tries to run away but has to return. After many years, the original mother returns and demands the child back. The judge tries to determine who is the real mother by placing the child in a chalk circle with a mother holding each arm and whicher pulls the child towards them wins the child. Fearing the child will be hurt, the servant lets go immediately and the child is awarded to the other woman.

Today's commentary has little to do with the actual story and more to do with how we approach literature from other places. This story is from Germany. When I visited Germany less than a year ago, we went to visit our German friends' parents at their home. While talking, they were delighted to hear that I was a poet and talked about how much literature meant to them. They knew some English poets alongside some famous German ones that I was unaware of. I found this reaction to be really surprising as most people don't really care much that I write poetry nor do they seem to have an appreciation for it.

I was also shocked at how much they seemed to know about English poetry despite living in Germany. In reality, so much of what I know begins and ends with the English language. Rarely do I read anything that is a translation from somewhere else. One of the things I like most about this project is that there are quite a few stories from other countries and writers that I have never heard of before. I like how this has exposed me to different styles, narratives, and tones that I may not have otherwise encountered.

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