It has been a while between posts due to current study commitments but I am compelled to comment on Wittgenstein Jr, a novel by Lars Iyer. My literary taste-buds fairly tingled upon reading Lisa Hill’s review at ANZ Litlovers in which she alerts us to Iyer’s laugh-out-loud humour and clever satire. Unlike Lisa, I am unfamiliar with the real Wittgenstein and his work but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of this romp of a read.
Wittgenstein Jr is the nickname given to a philosophy lecturer by his students. Our narrator, Peters, is of the group, yet slightly distant, partly because of his northern non-elitist background and partly – I suspect – because of the depth of his own philosophical bent. In fact, when I wasn’t laughing, I worried between lines about the fate of both Wittgenstein Jr and Peters (the other characters seem far more urbane and centred).
In addition to the humour and delightful insights into the world of the undergraduate and the university dons, Wittgenstein Jr has moments of great poignancy and, in places, I found the underlying sentiments to be deeply, darkly sad.
Peters tells us that Wittgenstein says he has experienced every kind of mental illness:-
He’s heard hostile voices. He’s felt that his mind is being read. He’s felt persecuted. Tormented, by alien forces. He’s experienced great highs, manias. He’s felt grandiosity. He’s felt chosen. He’s felt that only he could save the world.
And he’s experienced terrible despairs, he says. Abysmal depression. He’s had to keep away from sharp knives. From exposed pipework. From bottles of bleach. From high places… (p146)
But I’ll leave this mini-review of what is a fabulous novel with a lighter quote.
Notes passed in class. Mulberry to Doyle: You’re a whiny little bitch. Doyle to Mulberry: You have a micro-penis. Mulberry to Doyle: You have a nano-penis. Doyle to Mulberry: You have a quantum penis. It’s both there and not there. (p21)