Brecht in dark times: Translations of his works under the Greek junta (1967–1974)

Dimitris Asimakoulas
University of Manchester (UK)

This paper will place Brecht’s published works within the socio-political context of the Greek junta (1967–1974). After preventive censorship was lifted in 1969, a massive import of Brecht’s works occurred. Brecht was immediately incorporated in the recently established tradition of serious books addressing important social issues, bringing the reader closer to modern thought and kindling the desire for democracy. Two of the most influential publishers of the time published Brecht’s works and actively subscribed to this trend of defiance against the regime in the publishing industry. The publishers’ activity as well as the content and paratextual elements of Brecht’s works they launched constituted instantiations of the discursive motif of dark times introduced by Brecht himself to describe oppression and distortion of truth.

Table of contents

On 21st April 1967, a group of military men launched a coup in Greece allegedly in order to foil plans for a communist takeover. Martial law was immediately introduced and all freedoms were drastically curtailed. The conservative regime practiced prepublication censorship, targeting books, films, songs and art that contained military references, references to fascism, revolutions and popular uprisings, subversive or communist ideas, pornography, homosexuality, and material that cast a slur on the nation, the Orthodox Church, the king and the government. An index of 760 banned books was issued in 1969, which meant the books listed could not be displayed, sold or talked about [ p. 94 ](Woodhouse 1979: 35). The index was soon withdrawn and censorship was lifted at the end of 1969. Books formerly included in the index could be sold at the publishers’ own risk, because some of them “may still contravene the Press Law—Addendum 1971” (Athenian 1972: 97). Now it was the responsibility of individual publishers and artists to avoid controversial issues, which could lead to hefty fines, closures, and occasionally imprisonment. The regime reintroduced martial law and censorship in November 1973, after the developing student movement was violently quelled. The strategy of introducing and withdrawing censorship allowed the junta to both appease mounting international criticism and control writers and artists (Roufos 1972: 155).

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