Brecht spent much of the Second World War on the move. In 1941 he and his family arrived at the Los Angeles port of San Pedro, via Vladivostok, where he connected with other German exiles, such as Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Fritz Lang, Thomas Mann and Arnold Schoenberg, who lived across the street from Shirley Temple. I suspect it was around this time that he wrote the following poem:
Contemplating Hell, as I once heard it,
My brother Shelley found it to be a place
Much like the city of London. I,
Who do not live in London, but in Los Angeles,
Find, contemplating Hell, that is
Must be even more like Los Angeles.
Also in Hell,
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course,
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets[/]
With great leaps of fruit, which nonetheless
Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos,
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere.
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty,
Even when inhabited.
Even the houses in Hell are not all ugly.
But concern about being thrown into the street
Consumes the inhabitants of the villas no less
Than the inhabitants of the barracks.