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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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July 2nd, 2012
7:07 PM
Some years ago, Wittgenstein's original grave at St. Giles was moved to another cemetery in Cambridge. Maybe it's no surprise that his hut is a mobile home.

m jones
February 5th, 2012
8:02 PM
As a former student of Moral Sciences at Cambridge in the early 1970's and thus exposed to some intellectual contact with Wittgenstein's pupils such as G.E.M.Anscombe, I have no doubt that Wittgenstein would be appalled at the idea of a reconstruction of his house and its subsequent display to tourists, even, or perhaps especially, philosophical ones. Inevitably such a site would confirm the sadly widespread perception that Wittgenstein was a strange, almost feral creature, driven by obscure emotions (guilt?) to remote places where he had an almost Dracula like anti-relationship with the local people. Lacking testimony from those who were close to him there, it is that kind of caricature of him which would probably prevail. People should study his philosophy not stomp around a Disney version of his retreat.

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