G. C. Lichtenberg

Fellow local blogger James Warren recently posted a seemingly depressing list of “top books” listed on Cambridge students’ Facebook pages. But I’d not be too downhearted. Probably the moral is: don’t believe all you read in Facebook entries! I know that when I was still a college fellow and “director of studies” and so able to get to know a few students very well over their three years here, I’d repeatedly be surprised when they eventually opened up about the books that they really loved and which meant something to them. I learnt a lot that way, about the students themselves, and about books too.

Just a couple of weeks ago — I can’t at all recall how it came up — one of our graduate students warmly recommended to me the Hollingdale translation of excerpts from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s The Waste Books. I got a copy: this version is quite new to me, and is a real delight. I had a much shorter collection of excerpts translated by Franz Mautner and Henry Hatfield almost forty years ago; and I first came across the aphorisms and their author in a favourite book that I had when a student, J. P. Stern’s Lichtenberg: A Doctrine of Scattered Occasions. But the pleasure of re-discovery after a good few years is enormous. Warmly recommended.

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