Downfall of The Egotist Johann Fatzer - Plot and Importance

Plot and Importance

The plot, as far as it is consistent, centers around a group of soldiers who desert from the First World War and hide out in the German city Mülheim, waiting for a revolution; among them Johann Fatzer. Other figures vary. Conflicts arise between the individualistic behavior Fatzer’s and the group, first of all Keuner, representing an approach of (party) discipline, but none-the-less they seem to depend on Fatzer to see them through. Either way, they end up dead.

The battle hasn’t
Killed us, but
At calm air in the quiet room
We kill ourselves."

Like other plays produced in the context of the Lehrstücke the Fatzer text is written in verse and contains passages for a commenting chorus. Many of the more elaborated fragments are speeches Fatzer’s or chorus segments.

All people at once own the air and the road
Free to roam in the stream of consorting
To hear human voices, see faces
I must be allowed to.
Is my live but short and soon over and amongst the walking
I will no longer be seen. Even in fight I have to breathe
Eat and drink as always. It may last forever
That is longer than me, and then I have, slain,
Not lived at all. The chest, too, withers
In the hideouts and to what purpose conceal
A degenerate man. All that is proof, that I can go
As I like and where I want to."

Due to the inaccessibility of the text (until the early 1990s only few sections were published) and the fragmentary nature of it the Fatzer text isn’t as widely known as most of Brecht’s other plays. However, Brecht himself considered the Fatzer fragment as his highest standard technically and considered re-using the Fatzer Verse in a project as late as 1951. It was considered as being Brecht’s equivalent to Goethe’s Faust, that is a material which Brecht kept himself open, throughout his life, for experiment.

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