The House of Wittgenstein, By Alexander Waugh

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The Independent Culture

More a Mahler scherzo than a Bruckner dirge, Waugh's family portrait of a gifted, accursed Viennese dynasty and their times finds delirious tunes of doom in the alternation of high achievement with grim blows of fate. Three children of steel magnate Karl Wittgenstein killed themselves.

Of the survivors, Paul, post-WW1 wound, became the irascible one-armed pianist for whom Ravel, Prokofiev and Britten wrote. Ludwig, aeronautical engineer turned philosophy-hating philosopher, transformed his discipline not once but twice. In dissonant, glittering episodes, Waugh whisks us through this dance of love, art and death.