Thoreau’s Cabin, Wittgenstein’s Hut

In case you think Thoreau was the only one seeking peace and quiet to write, and finding it in a solitary hut overlooking water, Wittgenstein built his in Norway about 90 years after Thoreau built his.  Both are extremely spartan.  Thoreau had a sizable village to walk  to, Wittgenstein (so far as I can determine) didn’t.

In a book I’ll mention, there are some wonderful pictures of Norway scenery, and the remains of the hut’s foundations.  I take it there is no completed restoration, though there is a well-marked trail (with quips from LW for the uninitiated) up the mountain to its location.

What brought me to this was the rediscovery on my shelf of  an extraordinary project, LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN: THERE WHERE YOU ARE NOT, loosely assembled narrative, poetry, and photographs on the theme of Wittgenstein’s ache for vocation, satisfied at times, it seems, in the quiet for writing he found in his hut.  Put together by Neto, Moreton, and Finlay and issued by Black Dog Publishing, 2005.  They specialize, we’re told, in   “Architecture Art Design Fashion History Photography Theory and Things.”  We have here a 150 p. large format relatively inexpensive gem — a visual, poetic and biographical collage of Wittgenstein’s life and work.

“People nowadays think, scientists are there to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc., to entertain them.  That the latter have something to teach them; that never occurs to them.” (1940)

Russell said it would be dark; Wittgenstein said he hated daylight

Russell said he was mad; Wittgenstein said God preserve him from sanity


4 comments on “Thoreau’s Cabin, Wittgenstein’s Hut

  1. dmfant says:

    Even when the rain falls relatively hard,
    only one leaf at a time of the little tree
    you planted on the balcony last year,
    then another leaf at its time, and one more,
    is set trembling by the constant droplets,

    but the rain, the clouds flocked over the city,
    you at the piano inside, your hesitant music
    mingling with the din of the downpour,
    the gush of rivulets loosed from the eaves,
    the iron railings and flowing gutters,

    all of it fuses in me with such intensity
    that I can’t help wondering why my longing
    to live forever has so abated that it hardly
    comes to me anymore, and never as it did,
    as regret for what I might not live to live,

    but rather as a layering of instants like this,
    transient as the mist drawn from the rooftops,
    yet emphatic as any note of the nocturne
    you practice, and, the storm faltering, fading
    into its own radiant passing, you practice again.

    “Droplets” by C.K. Williams

  2. Steve says:

    As I understand it, Wittgenstein lived reasonably close to the village of Skjolden and was acquainted with locals there. The village, I think, was clearly visible from his house. Skjolden was a popular tourist attraction even in his day, though he himself was an off-season visitor. There’s a picture of him rowing a boat toward a cliff face, which suggests that perhaps he rowed back and forth to the village. Speculation on my part. Maybe it’s time for you to take a pilgrimage there…?

  3. efmooney says:

    The clip of the setting is marvelous! I’ve read somewhere that one had to row from the village to the path up to the hut. I think Moore was invited to visit and was warned that beyond the hike up the mountain side, there was a small rowboat ride involved. So although there were villages close by for both, it was more of a bother for villagers to get to Wittgenstein’s (and he to get to them) than for Thoreau to get to Concord. I’ll pass on the pilgrimage, though in another decade of my life . . . .

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