Fischreiche Wässer! Schönbaumige Wälder!
Country in which the text is set
Marlebäck Manor near Kymi river, former Kymi County, Finland
The sonnet Finnische Landschaft (Finnish Landscape) is included in the same collection. It was written at Marlebäck, the writer Hella Wuolijoki’s estate, where the Brecht group spent three summer months. The opening lines of the sonnet are taken almost word for word from Brecht’s journal entry of 8 July, 1940, showing that the poem deals with a landscape the writer actually experienced. As the result of a Finnish translation by Arvo Turtiainen, the poem became known in Finland before it did in Germany, and the closing line, “Volk, das in zwei Sprachen schweigt” (a people that is silent in two languages), was adopted as a saying. In his Flüchtlingsgesprächen (Refugee Conversations) Brecht explains that what has often been assumed to be a statement on national character actually refers to the “silence” of the Finnish workers’ movement following its defeat in the civil war of 1918.
The poems making up the Steffinische Sammlung
were printed the first time in 1967 in volume 9 of the 20 volumes of collected works published by Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt am Main. Finnische Landschaft
was also printed —and dedicated to Wuolijoki—in the program for the premiere of Puntila
in Zurich in 1948.
When in August 1938 Brecht gave his planned collection of “Poems in Exile” the title Svendborger Gedichte (Svendborg Poems), he signalled a clear turn towards the concrete environment of the countries in which he spent his Scandinavian exile. The poems use the concrete details of his own everyday emigrant experience to illuminate the prevailing circumstances of National Socialist expansion across Europe. The house on Funen and his garden, the Stockholm island of Lidingö, and the natural environment of the Marlebäck estate are named and presented in the poems. In his Marlebäck sonnet Finnische Landschaft (Finnish Landscape) Brecht achieves a highpoint in terms of sensual, synaesthetic comprehension of the Nordic landscape.
Yet here too, the natural motifs retain their emblematically referential character. Nature poems based purely on an interest in particular locations and the feelings they evoke are not something we can expect from Brecht. And it is therefore hardly surprising to find both poems ending with an eminently political punch line.
Hans Peter Neureuter
Bertolt Brecht: Große kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. Hg. Von W. Hecht, J. Knopf, W. Mittenzwei, K.-D. Müller, Band 12: Gedichte 2 (Sammlungen 1938-1956), Berlin, Weimar, Frankfurt am Main 1988 (Bearbeitet von Jan Knopf), S. 110
Overall views of life and work: Jan Knopf (ed.): Brecht Handbuch, 5 vols, Stuttgart 2001-2003. Jan Knopf: BB, Stuttgart 2000, Günter Berg, Wolfgang Jeske: BB, Stuttgart 1998, Werner Mittenzwei: Das Leben des BB oder Der Umgang mit den Welträtseln, 2 vols, Berlin, Weimar 1986-87.
Year of first publication
Place of first publication