Written in code under constant threat of battle, Wittgenstein’s searing and illuminating diaries finally emerge in this first-ever English translation
During the pandemic, Marjorie Perloff, leading scholar of global literature, found her mind ineluctably drawn to the profound commentary on life and death in the wartime diaries of eminent philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951). Upon learning that these notebooks, which richly contextualise the early stages of his magnum opus, the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus, had never before been published in English, the Viennese-born Perloff determinedly set about translating them.
Beginning with the anxious summer of 1914, this historic, en-face edition presents the first-person recollections of a foot soldier in the Austrian Army, fresh from his days as a philosophy student at Cambridge, who must grapple with the hazing of his fellow soldiers, the stirrings of a forbidden sexuality and the formation of an explosive analytical philosophy that seemed to draw meaning from his endless brushes with death. Much like Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief, Private Notebooks takes us on a personal journey to discovery as it augments our knowledge of Wittgenstein himself.
"Translated into English for the first time, these diaries provide a glimpse into the innermost thoughts of a great philosopher." — Anil Gomes, The Guardian
"Perloff has done a great service in bringing this volume to fruition. Her inclusion of remarks from the recto pages is judicious and will engage the non-specialist reader… Her translation here has real presence: emotional ubiety." — Ian Ground, The Times Literary Supplement