The Waste Books

The Waste Books

by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

He is most celebrated, however, for the casual notes and aphorisms that he collected in what he called his Waste Books.

The record of a brilliant and subtle mind in action, The Waste Books are above all a powerful testament to the necessity, and pleasure, of unfettered thought.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 4.18
  • Pages: 264
  • Publish Date: September 30th 2000 by NYRB Classics
  • Isbn10: 0940322501
  • Isbn13: 9780940322509

What People Think about "The Waste Books"

These may be tentative conversational musings, or pleasant little aphorisms, but you can find the earliest roots of so many other Germans from Nietzsche to Wittgenstein, on herds, the church, morality, and language. Let me quote three examples: "Whenever he composes a critical review, I have been told he gets an enormous erection." "Nowadays three witty turns of phrase and a lie make a writer." "If countries were named after the words you first hear when you go there, England would have to be called "Damn It"." But Lichtenberg was also a scientist, too, and the rest of his books detail a curious and questioning eye towards all philosophies, ideas, and actions. "Of all the animals on earth, man is closest to the ape." (Pretty revolutionary for the late 18th century!) "Ideas too are a life and a world." "What has always pleased me about man is that he, who himself constructs Louvres, everlasting pyramids and churches of St Peter, can take delight in observing a cell of a honey-comb or a snail-shell." "A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is unlikely to look out." "The first rule with novels as well as plays is to regard the various characters as though they were pieces in a game of chess and not to seek to win one's game by changing the laws which govern these pieces-not move a knight like a pawn, etc.

He will be your friend when the entirety of humanity seems like savage aliens.

91) The Waste Books is a collection of 1,085 aphorisms and other short writings by a curious German hunchback who had a crater on the moon named after him. He was primarily a scientist, but also a satirist, and this is a book he never intended to publish, being a compilation of notebooks of his observations, thoughts and reflections. 72) He who says he hates every kind of flattery, and says it in earnest, certainly does not yet know every kind of flattery. Would make a great coffeetable book for the thinking wo/man.

I read this as a companion to the Pierre Senges work, Fragments of Lichtenberg (review here). And yet, its difficult to read this and not be taken up by the intellect of Lichtenberg his thoughts are broad and widespread, and yet each entry in his notebooks at least those here, which Ill comment on momentarily is economical in phrasing; succinct, witty, and direct; (brevity is the soul of wit and all that) but most contain a depth of thought most writers would spend pages on.

In their form and in the riddle they present, Lichtenbergs Waste Books may perhaps be compared to Pascals Pensées. That said, theres a great deal of worthy and fascinating stuff in the Waste Books. Its the kind of book you set by the bed and read from a bit at a time before sleep, with a pencil in your hand to mark up the pages. It makes a great difference by what path we come to a knowledge of certain things. Food probably has a very great influence on the condition of men.