Week 243: Mein Bruder war ein Flieger, by Bertolt Brecht

One of Bertolt Brecht’s most famous antiwar poems, an ironic celebration of Germany’s role in supporting the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, in particular of the pilots forming its Condor Legion, who were involved among other actions in the bombing of Guernica. You don’t go to Brecht for subtlety, but he sure knew how to make a point. The translation that follows is my own.

Mein Bruder war ein Flieger

Mein Bruder war ein Flieger
Eines Tages bekam er eine Kart
Er hat seine Kiste eingepackt
Und südwärts ging die Fahrt.

Mein Bruder ist ein Eroberer
Unserm Volke fehlt’s an Raum
Und Grund und Boden zu kriegen, ist
Bei uns alter Traum.

Der Raum, den mein Bruder eroberte
Liegt im Guadarramamassiv
Er ist lang einen Meter achtzig
Und einen Meter fünfzig tief.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

My brother was a pilot
His papers came one day
He got his kit together
And took a southward way

My brother is a conqueror
Our people need more space
And winning territory by war’s
An old dream of our race

The space in the Spanish mountains
My brother got to keep
Measures just six feet in length
And is five foot deep.

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