by Jostein Gaarder
Reviewed by Efadul Huq
Have you ever wondered who you are? What if you were named something else? Would you be the same person then? Where does the world come from? Don't you think at some point something must have come from nothing?
If these are the very thoughts that bother you sometimes, then Sophie's World is a perfect read for you. Jostein Gaarder has prepared a feast of knowledge for his readers in this book.
Sophie Amundsen, a spunky 14-year old's philosophic journey begins when a pair of timeless ontological posers “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” appear mysteriously in her mailbox. A follow-up envelope containing typewritten pages titled “What is Philosophy?” orients her on a correspondence course in the history of philosophy. Sophie's enthusiasm about the mysteries of life is misinterpreted by her mother as the influence of drugs!
Alberto Knox, Sophie's philosophy tutor is an enigmatic person who remains behind the veil in the beginning and sends his letters through Hermes, his messenger. Throughout his teaching he maintains a sense of wonder but his disquisition is clean and sober indeed. What keeps the novel moving are the tricks Gaarder plays with the old R and I (as philosophers call it) Reality and Illusion. Sophie begins receiving postcards addressed from a United Nations observer in Lebanon to his own 15-year old daughter, Hilde. Sophie gradually becomes aware of her existence within a book being written by Hilde's father. This is when you feel whether Sophie is just a thought of Hilde's father. In fact when I put myself in Sophie's shoes, I wondered if I am just a thought in somebody's mind. I questioned myself if I am real or unreal?
Gaarder had written the book for his young philosophy students so the history of philosophy has been discussed in the simplest way without details about world's major philosophers, systems or contexts. Moreover all the technical terms have been defined and hundreds of titles which would clutter the book have been omitted. The author has dealt with western philosophy beautifully without digging too deep. It's a pocket book of philosophy that gives you an overview of the philosophers in the last 3000 years.
Sophie's World is entertaining in an Alice-in-Wonderland fashion. On the other hand anybody who reads the book becomes the willing receptacle of Alberto's precious wisdom.
The 400 pages deserve your time and attention. And in the end you are left with a few questions lingering in your mind “Is Sophie real? Am I unreal?”
This must-read book is available in Bookworm.
Campus Buzz: The movie Eragon will be released on 15th December 2006
(R) thedailystar.net 2006