In his book Il était sept fois la révolution, Étienne Klein gives the following quotation of Ludwig Wittgenstein:

Tout livre, même s'il est écrit avec une honnêteté totale, peut toujours être tenu, d'un certain point de vue, comme sans valeur aucune. Et ce, parce qu'en réalité nul n'a besoin d'écrire un livre, étant donné qu'il y a bien d'autres choses à faire dans le monde.

Of course it's in French because the book is written in French. Here's my attempt at a translation in English:

Any book, even if it is written with total honesty, may always be regarded, from a certain point of view, as completely worthless. For in reality, no one needs to write a book, given that there are many other things to do in the world.

Étienne Klein uses this quote by way of an epigraph, I found it very funny. But it is not sourced, and I couldn't find a trace of it upon a quick web search. Anyone knows where it is from? I can't imagine Klein just made it up!

1 Answer 1


I think that the source is one of Wittgenstein's letters to Ludwig von Ficker (prospective publisher of the Tractatus): maybe that of December 4 or October 1919.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to check on the original edition, nor the English translation:

Briefe an Ludwig von Ficker, Salzburg, 1969; English translation “Letters to Ludwig von Ficker,” in C.G. Luckhardt (editor), Wittgenstein: Sources and Perspectives, Cornell University Press, 1979, pp. 82–98.

  • 2
    Dec.4 letter to von Ficker, that is right, but I am not sure where the French translation appears: a slightly different wording is found in the Revue Sud, hors serie 1986, p221.
    – sand1
    Jan 22, 2018 at 21:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .