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Contemplating Hell
by Bertolt Brecht

Contemplating Hell, as I once heard it, 
My brother Shelley found it to be a place 
Much like the city of London. I, 
Who do not live in London, but in Los Angeles,
Find, contemplating Hell, that it 
Must be even more like Los Angeles. 

Also in Hell, 
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens 
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course, 
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets
With great leaps of fruit, which nonetheless 

Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos, 
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than 
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which 
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere. 
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty, 
Even when inhabited. 

Even the houses in Hell are not all ugly. 
But concern about being thrown into the street 
Consumes the inhabitants of the villas no less 
Than the inhabitants of the barracks.


Bertolt Brecht is well-represented in the library and archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, through his relationships with Jewish colleagues in the literary world, as well as personal friendships with Jewish individuals both in Germany and in the German-speaking exile community in Los Angeles.

Submitted by Michael Simonson, Leo Baeck Institute.

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