Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Only One Clean Public Lavatory

“The Great Hall, as is generally the case in all public buildings, theatres, concert halls and banks, is draped with red banners. Many of them hang the entire length of the hall, and on them is written: ‘We shall Conquer and Surpass the Capitalist Countries!’ I thought, if instead of these talks, this waste of banner cloth, instead of the countless busts and pictures of Lenin, if instead of these huge and superficial expenditures of money, if instead of all this, only one clean public lavatory were built, then much more would have been achieved for the good and convenience of the people as well as for the ‘conquering and surpassing’ of the capitalist countries.”

From The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War by Alexander Waugh
The quote refers to Paul Wittgenstein’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1930.

Even though my connection with the Wittgensteins is limited to reading Ludwig’s work during an Epistemology and Metaphysics class at university, where I think I got a B-, and reading Thomas Bernhard’s magnificent Wittgenstein’s Nephew, I thought I”d give The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War a go as I’m interested in the end days of the Austrio-Hungarian empire. Perhaps, Stephan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, which I don’t think I’ve read, is next.

The book is a quick read and besides the Wittgenstein clan, there are a whole cast of characters many of whom I knew nothing about that i”m beginning to learn more about.

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