“Not my stomach.”; “Flog his stomach.”
‘Fear and Misery…’ is an unusual play within Brecht’s body of work, consisting of a series of sketched situations lacking recurring characters or a strictly developing narrative other than growing ambient menace as the Nazis consolidate their stranglehold on the Fatherland. Brecht digs for small moments in everyday lives where the oppression solidifies – or, even more interestingly, sometimes briefly liquefies.
So: in the scene quoted above, an exhausted torturer makes his victim fake it while he takes a rest. Hearing an inspector approaching, they resume just as the ‘superior’ looks in, giving the order. Elsewhere, an increasingly terrified judge not knowing which branch of the government he must appease in a case wherein they clash, the doctor who trains juniors to diagnose through questioning the patient – except, it turns out, when they’ve been beaten half to death for politics. Most uncomfortably, a man on his death bed demands the priest list the ways in which Heaven will be different – despite his SA son at the bedside.
It’s a tactic which pays off – such was the brutality of the regime, any art attempting to capture its extemes in full frontal would look hopelessly, offensively bathetic held up to real events – and, worse, unrealistic, since the Nazi’s crimes were so black and white, so widescreen.
The last sketch features rebels listening to the radio: “It really does sound like a single people, wouldn’t you say?”; “It sounds like twenty thousand drunks being stood free beer.”