“The suicide is almost always a sadist, because he alone wants to get out of a situation and can act,” according to an almost forgotten Austrian writer (and racist, antisemite and misogynist).
On 26 March 1827 one of the undisputed geniuses of Western civilization, Ludwig von Beethoven, died in his room at Schwarzspanierstrasse 15 in Vienna. Seventy-six years later the address would become famous once again for another death. In the same room on 3 October 1903, shortly after the publication of his magnum opus, Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character), the 23-year-old Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger shot himself in the chest. He was found the next morning, fully clothed and covered in blood, and was taken to hospital but died soon after. Weininger had only recently returned from Italy, where he had gone for a holiday, after completing the work for which, if at all, he is remembered today. That he banked a great deal on the book’s reception is evident from a remark he made to a friend shortly after finishing it. “There are three possibilities for me,” he declared. “The gallows, suicide, or a future so brilliant that I don’t dare to think of it.” What actually happened can be seen as a self-fulfilled prophecy. Weininger had expected his work to excite critical acclaim, and while it was cordially received, it failed to make the stir he had hoped for. Disappointed in his masterpiece’s reception, and troubled by his own depressions, Weininger, who considered himself a kind of ‘Redeemer’, decided to end his life where one of his greatest heroes had ended his, thus forging a link between Beethoven’s genius and his own, genius in general and his own in particular being one of Weininger’s central themes.