Stunning, bold first novel very loosely based on the erratic career of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In a buoyant style, Duffy imagines Wittgenstein's life as a series of collisions, beginning with his turbulent family life and especially with his arrival at Cambridge and his rocky friendships with Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, and Lytton Strachey and the Cambridge Apostles. While Russell and Moore vie for Wittgenstein's loyalty, Strachey and the Apostles see a star on the ascendant and move in quickly to enlist him within their ranks. But precisely those qualities that make Wittgenstein a recognizably brilliant student--the exactitude, the elimination of unnecessary detail--render him incapable of a soft berth in academe (a mercy which prevents this work from becoming yet another academic novel). In the meantime, Russell has problems of his own, what with the demands of a mistress, the maintenance of reputation, and the dirty but necessary chore of fending off intellectual and sexual pretenders to the throne. Somewhat off to the side, a perfect foil for the bombastic Russell, stands the ever-tactful Moore, acting as a buffer between Russell and Wittgenstein. Then WW I intrudes, separating Wittgenstein and his friends, who find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict, and we later see Wittgenstein languishing as a schoolteacher in a slovenly Austrian town before going through a spiritual renewal and finally returning to Cambridge to become one of Europe's reigning philosophers. Duffy has concocted letters, rearranged biography, toyed with language and philosophy, and come up with an idiosyncratic tale that, line after line, crackles with sharp wit. A spectacular first showing.