Monday, February 15, 2010

Bertolt Brecht and the Irascible

A few months back I bumped into old school friend Nick Lewis (currently of The Irascibles). We chatted about music, art, literature etc because that’s the kind of chaps we are. During our conversation Nick mentioned that Bertolt Brecht had once written a short story partly set in Cardiff. Scepticism gripped me. He must be mistaken. Surely he meant Bound East For Cardiff by Eugene O’Neill? Or The Nigger of the Narcissus by Joseph Conrad which references Cardiff and some of which was written in the Old Library on the Hayes? No, it was definitely Brecht, he insisted - check out his Collected Short Stories. OK, I said, and waved goodbye.

So anyway, today I’m in Capital Books in the Morgan Arcade browsing the shelves for second-hand literary gold when out of the corner of my eye I spot Brecht’s Collected Short Stories. It’s a 1983 Methuen reprint in paperback. I cough-up the requisite £4 and re-locate to Dempsey’s. Armed with a refreshing pint of ale I obsessively scanned the volume for references to Cardiff. Absolutely nothing. Until, that is, I arrived at the last story in the collection.

Life Story of the Boxer Samson-Körner is an unfinished biographical study of Brecht’s pugilist friend Paul Samson-Körner. It recounts episodes in the German boxer’s life including his arrival in Cardiff as a stowaway; his job in a cheap hotel; and his first taste of the ring at a Cardiff fairground. He got battered, incidentally. The story was first published in 1926 in Scherls Magazin, Berlin, and later in Die Arena, Berlin. So, there you have it: Nick Lewis, singer in The Irascibles and authority on the writings of Bertolt Brecht.