Wittgenstein’s Family Letters: Corresponding with Ludwig by Brian McGuinness (ed) (Translated by Peter Winslow) - review by Tom Stern

Tom Stern

Yours Logically

Wittgenstein’s Family Letters: Corresponding with Ludwig


Bloomsbury Academic 295pp £20

On 10 January 1919, Hermine Wittgenstein wrote to her brother Ludwig with the latest news. Mama’s cataract operation ‘went very well’. Kurt ‘fell on 27 September, it’s very sad’. Frege has written to say that ‘a few sentences are missing from your work’. Paul will be ‘playing his (very beautiful) clarinet trio everywhere’. Hermine is the star of this newly published set of letters exchanged between Ludwig and various other Wittgensteins. The correspondence begins in 1908 and ends in 1951 with Ludwig’s death. Chief correspondents, besides Hermine and Ludwig, are their brother Paul and sister Margarete. There are guest appearances by another sister, Helene, a niece, Mariechen, and a beloved brother-in-law, Max (‘Maxl! You old shit!’). The letters are thoughtfully edited by Brian McGuinness.

Hermine’s letter of 10 January is typical. News of Mama focuses on her ailments, as news of mamas often will. Kurt, who committed suicide in the last weeks of the First World War, was their brother; he became the third of the Wittgenstein brothers to take his own

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