If you follow the lightly marked path to where Wittgenstein's retreat used to perch, you hike through damp fields and scramble over rocks to arrive at nothing more than rubble-strewn foundations. Yet it's a heart-stopping moment if you've done your reading and come to appreciate the man. Forested, this local "Austria" looks down on water the colour of a milky opal. Across the lake a sublimely terrifying waterfall hurls itself in perpetuity off the sheer cliff. To add to the drama, Wittgenstein would visit in winter to avoid the tourists, and perhaps to benefit from being able to walk across the ice without need of a boat.
It was as a volunteer officer in the Great War that Wittgenstein happened upon a copy of Tolstoy's Confession. As Kjell Johannessen of Bergen's Wittgenstein Archives sees it, the philosopher's whole Norwegian adventure can be interpreted in Tolstoyan terms as a flight first from Vienna, and later from Cambridge, a university he unflatteringly described as a mutual admiration society. The people of Skjolden were Wittgenstein's Russian peasants, who left him to live in his own silence. Even so, for reasons only he could explain, he spent no more than three years of his life in Norway.
In an intriguing recent book, On the Trail to Wittgenstein's Hut (2010), Norwegian-born Ivaar Oxaal found that Wittgenstein's interest in Norway first arose during the period following Scott's and Amundsen's explorations, and was further stimulated by the Titanic disaster in 1912.
In 1913 he paid a first visit with Cambridge friend David Pinsent, who recalled that playing dominoes was just enough to keep them occupied in the evening. Later that year Wittgenstein returned alone and lodged with the postmaster, where he worked on the mystical and elusive Tractatus Logicus-Philosophicus. While Russell saw that first short book as a breakthrough in mathematical logic, shadowing his own preoccupations, scholars since have compared it to the satirical aphorisms of Wittgenstein's Viennese contemporary Karl Kraus, another moralist pitted against the corruption of the world and especially of language.
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