Between 1931 and 1941 Bertolt Brecht and Margarete Steffin were lovers, friends, and intellectual collaborators. Yet scholars have struggled to understand the mechanics of their collaborative style, and presentist and liberal notions of authorship and accreditation have concentrated scholarly discussions away from Brecht and Steffin’s more urgent priorities as exiles, socialists, and antifascists. This article uses Brecht’s poems of mourning for Steffin, collectively known as “Nach dem Tod Meiner Mitarbeiterin M.S.,” along with letters, journal entries, and relevant contemporary scientific and medical understandings, to place the poems and the relationship more firmly within their specific historical environment. In the context of Brecht and Steffin’s evolving socialism, as well as the increasingly limited resources available to them once in exile, the intimate and effective literary cooperation they achieved was of primary importance. This fresh reading of the poems presents historicized insights into Brecht’s use of imagery and suggests a way forward for scholarship of collaborative literary relationships.

You do not currently have access to this content.