Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sophie's World - A Sample Book Review

‘He who cannot draw on 3000 years is living from hand to mouth” as noted by famous German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Sophie’s World” is a must read book for everyone. Written by a Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder this meta-fiction is a concise history of philosophy. As we read this novel the author wants us to plunge into the mysteries and riddles of this universe, not least the one, “Where did this universe come from?” Did it come from nothing or has it always existed?

Sophie Amundsen, an early teenager, returns home from school to find a mysterious letter from a stranger questioning her “Who are you?” As their interaction progresses the stranger introduces himself as a philosopher but prefers to remain anonymous for his other details. He offers Sophie, a philosophy course and they discuss the history of past 3000 years including the biographies of famous Greek philosophers, Heraclitus, Democritus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to name a few. They discuss about the Middle Age when the philosophy intertwines with the religion and later revives and flourishes during the Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance. When the course approaches the end, author reveals that all these characters are nothing but fictitious in the mind of Albert Knag, a Major of the UN Peacekeeping force in Lebanon, who is writing a book called “Sophie’s World” to teach philosophy to his daughter, Hilde Moller Knag. She gets this book as a birthday present from her father and reads it completely. The same day was a birthday of Sophie, when Sophie and her philosophy teacher plan and succeed to come out of the Major’s imagination and live an eternal life.

The mysterious philosopher identified as Alberto Knox is an imaginary portrayal of the Major himself and Sophie his daughter because they have many characteristics in common. However, the imaginary characters come alive later by escaping from the imagination of the Major and become immortal like Alice, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and so on. Even then they cannot interfere with the life of others especially that of Major and Hilde as they could not be seen or felt or heard.

The author has presented this novel by means of meta-fiction, a fiction within a fiction, to make the puzzles, riddles, and mysteries of this universe livelier. Writing from the wondering and speculative perspective of children is the specialty of the author Jostein Gaarder. Meta-fiction is his most preferred genre.

In conclusion, this book is very informative and unique, possessing the characteristics of a must read book. Read it yourself to empathize with the wondering eyes of Sophie and to acknowledge the mysteries and wonders of this universe.

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