Posted in Book, Review

[Book] Sophie’s World


Considering i bought this book on 22 March 2009 and officially finished it on 29 June 2011, it took me more than two years to finish it. This must be a record! Well, maybe not that long since i didn’t start reading rightaway, and i kinda abandoned this book shortly after i decided to begin (due to coping with life’s hectic routine, amongst the others). *grin* Or…maybe it isn’t long compared to the 3000 years of rollercoaster ride through philosophy’s history Sophie’s World has taken me into.

I honestly don’t fancy philosophy — more because I don’t really fathom the meaning of the word. It sounds… heavy and serious and farfetched for someone ordinary like me. Then, why did I purchase SW in the first place? Well… frankly speaking, it was partly because this book is an international bestseller. I have to admit that I have a weak spot for international bestselling books; so if it isn’t too heavy a content — meaning that it’s still within my cup of tea, or not too far beyond the boundary — I’d certainly like to give it a try. My reasoning? There’s got to be something with the content to attract millions of pairs of eyes to read them — the more if it wins so-and-so award. I don’t always agree with majority or what critics say though. Another half of my decision to bag SW home was because it is a children’s book after all. Philosophy for children (or teenagers, noting that Sophie’s 15) shouldn’t be that sophisticated, no?

So… the problem is… how to summarize this book. If I can put it this way, it’s about Sophie, a soon-to-be 15 year-old grown-up girl, finds somebody out-of-the-blue writing to her about philosophy. The sender turns out to be a middle-aged man named Alberto Knox. (I’d be freaking scared if I were her, thinking is he a pedophile or something?) By philosophy I mean it really IS about philosophy; he explains about philosophers from the very beginning to the most recent ones together with their differing views and thoughts on God, humans, life, and the interrelations they have and influence one another. The story ends with the twentieth century’s philosophers since the book was published in the 1990s.

There are many names who ring a bell; a lot more of whom I never heard of. From being a silent reader of Alberto’s many mails and hints, Sophie gets to meet him in person. However, she starts to experience strange, uncanny things. She receives many letters from Albert Knag addressed to his daughter, Hilde. She also gets a hold of the things she dreamt of or Hilde lost. They also happen to share the same birthday and age. On the journey of talking about philosophers and their respective philosophies, Alberto together with Sophie tries to unveil the secret behind Hilde and Albert Knag — who she really is, what he is planning, and how to escape from his recurring interference during their discussions in general and in Sophie’s life in particular.

I guess that’s really about it. After being fed with so many persons and concepts one after another, I cannot really remember who’s who and who’s opining of what. I wonder if Sophie feels overwhelmed by those (too much) information. However, this book indeed gets one to question about a lot of things in life he/she probably has never thought of before. For me, I have lots of questions and perspectives that are similar to many of them mentioned in the book. Some of them sounds and feels old, yet we can see how people’s takes on life and their surroundings develop throughout the years — many of which are still relevant to today’s circumstances.

One particular individual that still leaves a trace in my mind after I closed the book in triumph (possibly because he is one of the most recent subjects) is Freud and his psychoanalysis, or theory of the unconscious. Long story short, he brought forward the notion that humans are more controlled by their unconsiousness rather than consciousness. It’s thus unhealthy to repress any thing that we effortfully try “to forget because it was either unpleasant, improper, or nasty.” Those suppressed thoughts will never go away that easily. They seemingly stay hidden yet are constantly trying to resurface, which may lead to mental illness.

That is why we experience ‘parapraxes’—slips of the tongue or pen. That we “accidentally say or do things that we once tried to repress.” That is also why we often ‘rationalize’, wherein we “do not give the real reason for what we are doing either to ourselves or to other people because the real reason is unacceptable.” Alternatively, we ‘project’ by transferring “the characteristics we are trying to repress onto other people.” These slips are therefore by no means accidental. They are actually divulging people’s most intimate secrets — the more one tries to forget something, the more one thinks of it; thus the slips.

There isn’t much story told in the book other than those compressed philosophy courses and the mystery behind Hilde and her father. The courses get boring after a while whereas the mystery is abruptly revealed right in the middle, which spiked my reading speed. There isn’t much left to enchant me; it’s the mystery that kept me going. I was hoping there’s a twist after the leaked secret but (if there’s any) I don’t find it. Maybe it’s because story isn’t the selling point of SW; it’s the philosophy itself. I believe Jostein Gaarder explained why he wrote SW through the character’s mouth: “I decided to write a book about philosophy because they (bookstores and libraries) had nothing suitable for young people.” It thus serves as a decent philosophic reference book; also because it contains end notes and an index like lexicons do.

I suppose philosophy is not a light matter of discussion. It requires deep, reflective thoughts which lead inwards (or upwards to our Creator). Neither is SW a kind of book we can get by with a single reading. I definitely have to reread this — let’s see if my views (or rating) will differ after that.

Until next time, then. ^o^

Rating: 3/5
By Jostein Gaarder
Publisher: Orion, 2003
Genre: Children, Philosophy, Reference



I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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