Adam Kirsch’s THE DISCARDED LIFE reviewed in latest edition of The New York Review of Books

“Hell,” wrote Percy Shelley in 1819, “is a city much like London.” A hundred and twenty years later Bertolt Brecht, who fled the Nazis for Santa Monica, volunteered a different perspective. “I,” he wrote, “who live not in London but in Los Angeles/Thinking about Hell, suppose it must be/Even more like Los Angeles.” In Hell, too, there are

            such luxuriant gardens
With flowers, as big as trees, that admittedly perish at once
Unless watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets
With heaps of fruit that, it must be said
Have neither smell nor taste. And the endless columns of cars
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, gleaming vehicles in which
Rosy people coming from nowhere are going nowhere
And houses, built for the happy and therefore empty
Even when lived in.

(translated by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine)