Published in English for the first time, Refugee Conversations is a delightful work that reveals Brecht as a master of comic satire. Written swiftly in the opening years of the Second World War, the dialogues have an urgent contemporary relevance to a Europe once again witnessing populations on the move.
The premise is simple: two refugees from Nazi Germany meet in a railway cafe and discuss the current state of the world. They are a bourgeois Jewish physicist and a left-leaning worker. Their world views, their voices and their social experience clash horribly, but they find they have unexpected common ground – especially in their more recent experience of the surreal twists and turns of life in exile, the bureaucracy, and the pathetic failings of the societies that are their unwilling hosts.
Their conversations are light and swift moving, the subjects under discussion extremely various: beer, cigars, the Germans' love of order, their education and experience of life, art, pornography, politics, 'great men', morality, seriousness, Switzerland, America ... despite the circumstances of both characters there is a wonderfully whimsical serendipity about their dialogue, the logic and the connections often delightfully absurd.