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Sophie's World (J. Gaarder)

2004-09-21 2 min read Books marco

A Novel About the History of Philosophy. Now, THAT sounds boring, doesn’t it?
A philosophy teacher falls into deep ennui out of his students’ boredom and decides to write a book that makes the history of philosophy an interesting topic. To achieve the result, the book is about a high-school student and her familial problems. And philosophy is the solution of the problem.
Sounds a bit contrived? Well, that’s the story behind Sophie’s World. Not the plot, mind you, but the raison d’etre. The story itself is even more contrived, and ends on a formulaic note of the existentialist kind. It’s like reading Michael Ende, but without any fantasy involved.
In the end, the book is just a replacement for a text book for challenged youth. The story doesn’t flow, doesn’t make any sense, and still remains predictable. Of course, all of this is not true if this book is your first encounter with philosophy, and you do care about 14 year old girls and their outlook on life. Then the distant father figure moves you; the dialogues on philosophers become interesting, and even the leaden description of the characters takes a back seat. It’s like going back in time and reading “The Name of the Rose” all over again.
Ok, so I have to admit I learned about the history of philosophy in high school. It was more fun there, when we could talk with our teacher about all those speculations and reasons. When we could follow the wacky lives of a great many philosophers: their love affairs, their mysterious escapes, their poverty, their craziness. There seemed to be no philosopher that didn’t have a serious issue in life, and we highlighted those with gusto.
Just like ‘Troy’, the movie, omitted the Greek gods and with them all the fun, this book has no relevant embarrassment in store for the philosophers. It is all very clean, as if the author was really trying to get the book approved as text book.
All in all, disappointing. Read something else, if you know about philosophy. And if you don’t, please get yourself a real history of philosophy. They are much more fun, anyway.