Ladislav Čumba (b. 1976) is a teacher of Czech for foreigners. He is a member of the editorial board of the magazine Babylon, a founder of the civic association Skutečnost, a moderator at musical festivals, an author of song text, an occasional playwright, amateur actor and scriptwriter and the author of a mini-opera trilogy.
January 2017, 368 pages
Rights sold: Poland (Iskry)
Biography written in a readable literary form with humour and subtlety. Awarded the Miloslav Švandrlík award for the best humoristic book of the year and shortlisted for the F. X. Šalda Award as the most serious one at the same time.
Ladislav Čumba’s literary text explores the story of Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. The son of a Kladno steelmaker, one of the richest people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose mother Poldi is still remembered by residents of Kladno, he turned his back on that enormous wealth. He became a gardener and, after a colourful journey, a philosophy teacher at Cambridge. This story of the Czech traces in the family and life of the philosopher Wittgenstein is a testimony to the tenacity of both capitalists and writers, to intransigence and tolerance, to arts patronage and the power of the spoken and written word. It also takes in eminent artists of the period, in many cases family friends, like Rilke, Trakl, Klimt, Brahms, Hindemith and Ravel. The book is underscored with top-quality graphic design (Jan Čumlivski) that is attractive to users and naturally complements the textual collage with a pictorial collage.
“This is not a philosophical work, an attack on Wittgenstein’s ideological world, a discussion or a polemic. Čumba is concerned with an investigation into the background, both real and hypothetical, in which Wittgenstein grew up. He is following in the footsteps of all kinds of experiments and postmodern actors, from Jarry, through Queneau and Perec to Ouředník and Brikcius. And to a certain extent also Wittgenstein himself.”
“A member of a family and a distinguished personality who left an indelible imprint on the march of history.”
“It’s well-known that in the beginning was the word. The word occupied a philosopher and his name was Ludwig. His parents, whose name he bore, were named Wittgenstein. His father was Karl and his mother Leopoldine, known at home as Poldi. It’s also well-known that not far from Prague airport lies an industrial town by the name of Kladno where stainless steel named Poldi was produced, and may still be. It’s less well-known that this Poldi – whose face is familiar to all Czech ice hockey fans at least, from the chest of the godlike Jaromír Jágr – is the same Poldi whose son became the most famous professor of philosophy at Cambridge University in the 20th century. It’s even less well-known that her husband, Ludwig’s father, was the most successful capitalist in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as he was the first to grasp the difference between monopoly and competition and, at the right time and in the right field, became incredibly wealthy on the back of this difference.”