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Galileo Paperback – January 11, 1994


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Language Notes

Text: English
Original Language: German
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (January 11, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130594
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 4.5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
When is it wrong to tell the truth? As in many of Bertolt Brecht's plays, the author uses historical analogies to address the social and political problems of his own time. I the case of Galileo, Brecht saw a simularity between the physicist's submitting to the Church authorities' demand for recanation with the situation in WWII Germany in which the scientists were turning over their knowledge to aid the Nazi effort. Galileo is considered a masterpiece and one of the most relevant plays of the 20th century, and I agree. I beleive Galileo was a remarkable play and deserves to be enjoyed by people all over the world
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on October 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Recently, the American Psychological Association discovered, to its general embarrassment, that a good number its members had collaborated with Pentagon- and CIA-sponsored torturers--or practitioners of "enhanced interrogation." The psychologists had provided expert advice about levels of endurance, psychological techniques for cracking resistance, and so on.

To its credit, the APA formally condemned such collaboration. But the whole sordid incident reminds us (as if we need reminding) that when men and women of science allow their knowledge to be misused, either out of cowardice or misguided patriotism, science can become a horrible tool for exploitation and destruction. This, in a nutshell, is the central theme of Brecht's second version of "Galileo."

The play is one of Brecht's best. Written with a nondidactic hand, the play is anything but dreary socialist realism. At times funny and at other times incredibly sad, the sober message that it is the scientist's responsibility to make sure that his or her discoveries are used properly runs throughout. In abjuring his physics under threats from the Inquisition, Brecht's Galileo displays moral cowardice: first, because he allows established power to usurp his discoveries, and second because he lets down the people who could most profit from his specific discoveries as well as the spirit of unfettered inquiry that generated them. As Galileo says at one point in the play, "The practice of science would seem to call for valor."

Several reviewers have remarked that the introduction by Eric Bentley is long-winded and have accordingly reduced their rating for the book. This strikes me as odd for two reasons. First, presumably one purchases "Galileo" to read Brecht, not attached commentary.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on March 22, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent play which can be read quickly in a few hours. The play is preceded by an introduction by Eric Bentley which I will also review. Following the play is an appendix where Brecht elaborates on five aspects of telling the truth which are relevant to the play and make an interesting commentary following the play.

Bertolt Brecht uses the life of Galileo to comment upon his own times and conditions but it is the strength of the play that it would and could reflect upon the entire human condition and situations where a new truth challenges a well established ideology.

The story is well established in history that Galileo discovered various aspects around the movement of the planets and the moon which challenged Christian orthodoxy, he is allowed some flexibility by the church in recognition of his status, but eventually he is forced to recount his writings as fictitious and not reflective of the larger truth taught by Christianity. It is to Brecht’s great credit that the Cardinals, Pope, Bishop, and inquisitors are for the most part portrayed as highly educated, sophisticated men who greatly appreciated how a challenge to Christian orthodoxy could be the first step in undermining the entire conceptual faith model that Christianity had built over a period of 1000 years. To allow that the earth revolves around the sun opens up the possibility that there was not a virgin birth or a resurrection, concepts on which Christianity hangs. Galileo was up against wise men, not fools, and they were strong defenders of the Christian conceptual model and the infrastructure of the church which is built upon that conceptual foundation.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
The pressures that the established order can bring to bear on those who want to move outside the status quo are enormous. In the end those in charge can grind down the best of men with the most worthy knowledge to disseminate. That is the story that the master communist playwright Bertolt Brecht brings here about the pressures to recant brought on Galileo by the Catholic Church in the 1500's. And for what crime? For merely bringing out facts about the nature of the world and its place in the universe that are taken as commonplaces, even by children, today.

Brecht himself certainly knew about such pressures. Although in public, at least, Brecht was a fairly orthodox Stalinist he had his private moments of doubt. Certainly some of the themes in his plays stretch the limits of the orthodox `socialist realist' cultural program. Thus the strongest part of the play is the struggle between an individual who is onto something new about the world and an institution that saw that such a discovery would wreak havoc on its claims to centrality. Every once in a while a section of humankind turns inward on itself like that and here the Church was no exception. Damn, the fight against such obscurantism is the price that we pay for some sense of human progress. Except, as in the case of the Catholic Church, it should not have taken 300 years to admit the error. Know this. We have to defend the Galileos of the world against the rise of obscurantism. And in this play Brecht has done his part to honor that commitment.
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