In the early 1930s Bertolt Brecht fled Germany for Prague, then spent some time in Paris before escaping to Denmark, Sweden and eventually Finland, before finally travelling via the Soviet Union to the United States. His experience as a mid-twentieth century refugee is far from irrelevant today.
‘You can’t say a thing these days’ is the predictable chorus of the reactionary in the face of ‘political correctness gone mad’. In reality they say all they want to say: as the French antisemitic writer Céline put it, ‘once you’re recognised to be a clown you can say anything’.
Founded in 1929, Faber & Faber had the benefit of the best connections and an astute director who also happened to be one of Britain’s greatest poets. Still, it might not have survived all those years as an independent publisher had it not been for a certain collection of children’s verse.
In a Yale experiment in the 1960s, social psychologist Stanley Milgram found that large numbers of ordinary, inoffensive people were prepared to administer painful electric shocks to another person, similarly ordinary and inoffensive, sometimes even when a fatality seemed possible.