This is a book that I have had since the mid-90s. It was much talked of when it was published and I don't really know why it has ended up so long on my shelves. It was due to the Classic Club's invitation to DARE reading a book that frightens you, one way or the other, that I grabbed this book. The sub title of the book is An adventure in philosophy, and I was thinking that it would somehow be 'over my head'. It is not...or is it? From the cover a short summary.
"One day Sophie comes home from school to find two questions in her mailbox: Who are you? and Where does the world come from?
This is the start of Sophie's adventure in philosophy - from the Greeks to Descartes, from Spinoza to Hegel, Mars and Freud - with a mysterious mento who will not reveal his identity. But this is not the only mystery in Sophie's world. Why does she keep receiving postcards addressed to someone called Hilde? Why do Hilde's possessions turn up among her own? Who is Hilde - and who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, Sophie uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined."
A philosophy teacher is the one who has approached Sophie. He wants her to learn about philosophy and question the world around her. Almost each chapter is dedicated to a philosopher from the old Greeks to the modern day thinkers. Jostein Gaarder is a philosophy teacher, and one just would like to attend his lessons. He manages to make you understand the various philosophies by putting forward simple explanations and examples. The book can actually be used as an encyclopaedia over philosophy and how it has developed from the old days.
It is all very well, until we come midway though the book. So far we followed Sophie and her adventures with the philosophy teacher. Now Hilde comes into the equation, and the idea I had, that I do understand this after all, is all gone. While reading you do wonder how it will all end. There certainly must be a catch with the different people, things and stories that evolves around Sophie. I don't want to spoil anything for a potential reader, so I leave the story here.
Jostein Gaarder creates the wonderful world of Sophie and we follow her quest to know the deeper meaning of the universe and life. The story is not as simple as I thought, having gone a little bit into hybris when I thought I understood it all. With the two stories of Sophie and Hilde, Gaarder takes us straight into the philosophical world and our beings. What is real and what is a dream? How does our sub-conscience work? And, all the other questions concerning our existence. Excellently written, and a wonderful way to approach philosophy.