Published by Melville House on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General
The unruly undergraduates at Cambridge have a nickname for their new lecturer: Wittgenstein Jr. He’s a melancholic, tormented genius who seems determined to make them grasp the very essence of philosophical thought.But Peters—a working-class student surprised to find himself among the elite—soon discovers that there’s no place for logic in a Cambridge overrun by posh boys and picnicking tourists, as England’s greatest university is collapsing under market pressures.Such a place calls for a derangement of the senses, best achieved by lethal homemade cocktails consumed on Cambridge rooftops, where Peters joins his fellows as they attempt to forget about the void awaiting them after graduation, challenge one another to think so hard they die, and dream about impressing Wittgenstein Jr with one single, noble thought.And as they scramble to discover what, indeed, they have to gain from the experience, they realize that their teacher is struggling to survive. For Peters, it leads to a surprising turn—and for all of them, a challenge to see how the life of the mind can play out in harsh but hopeful reality.Combining his trademark wit and sharp brilliance, Wittgenstein Jr is Lars Iyer’s most assured and ambitious novel yet—as impressive, inventive and entertaining as it is extraordinarily stirring.
This is going to be a short review. I’m just going to be honest. I didn’t get it – there were moments where I had glimmers of ideas where I thought I might be understanding something — but then it just went right over my head. Kind of like DeLillo’s Underworld I have a hard time giving this book any rating because I really think that I just did not get the deeper meaning that Iyers was aiming for.
Despite that this book is beautifully written and there are many quotes that I highlighted that could stand alone and feel deep and important.
“The failure to launch. To leave your house. To leave your room. To leave your bed. To open your eyes in the morning. How easily it could happen! One mistimed bout of depression and that would be it – the rest of your life, in your parents’ house, on soul rotting medication.” p. 164
As far at the Tournament of Books goes – I honestly have no idea how this will fare. (Maybe that goes part in parcel with not understanding the book.) I can’t see it winning, though – not with the other great books that I’ve read.
“Why is the drive to understand so close to the drive to misunderstand?, he asks. Why is the urge to think almost identical to the urge not to think?” p. 122
Perhaps this book will be more accessible to those with a stronger background in philosophy. If anyone has read this and feels like they ‘get it’… I’d love to hear from you.
“We’re drowning in openness, he says. In our sense of the possible. We’re ready to take anything in – to learn about anything, and therefore about nothing. Everything is available to use, and therefore nothing is available to us. Everything is at our disposal, and therefore nothing is at our disposal.” p. 76
New Century Reading has a similar review here. I think she’s also doing the whole Tournament List too!
What about you, Reader? Have you read this one? What’s the last book that you read that you didn’t feel like you ‘got’?