Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reflections: Sophie's World

I'm finally trying to make time for books that have been on my wish list forever, and those that I'd given up on years before. Sophie's World belongs to the latter, but thanks to SecondSight, I got back to it after 10 years.

This is a novel that tantalizes you to think and rethink till you reflect on an "answer", and then yet again pushes you to rethink and question your answers... a long loop of recursive reflections. Ten years back, I could hardly get past 50 pages, because my brain simply hurt and my head was too thick. But this time, the pieces started to slowly fall into place and I ended up learning so much more than I have ever learned from a novel. And the author's intent is fulfilled.

Well, is it really a "novel" or a textbook? It's neither, but both. Confusing? Welcome to Sophie's World. The author takes a couple of 15 year old girls on a journey of the history of philosophy - from Pre-Socrates to Sartre. For someone like me who has never read any philosophy textbook cover to cover, this book gives a beautiful bird's eye view of how the ideologies of Western Philosophy progressed through multitudes of generations. And the commendable part is Gaarder's simple yet brilliant style of writing -- devoid of convoluted statements, lofty phrases and intimidating prose, his writing is focused on lecturing a 15 year old inquisitive mind with simple and profound analogies, and I lapped it all up. This very well could serve as an introductory textbook on Philosophy.

Weaving through this discourse on philosophy is a brilliant portrayal of our illusive existence. The riddle is a recursive illusion of life - sort of like Morton's salt box which contains the picture of a little girl carrying another Morton's salt box, which would have the picture of the same girl inside the box, which will have another picture inside the picture.. which might go on to an infinite recursive loop.  Each girl in the box is surely just a fabrication of our paints. However, it makes me wonder if some other girl is seeing me hold the box that contains the picture of a girl holding the box, which has the picture of another girl holding the box....confusing and eerie? Am I also a painting to some other girl? What if our lives are nothing but entertaining soap operas to the "Gods" above? How sure are we of being alive, breathing and real, directing our own actions? But let me not let the whole cat out of the bag.

A book that makes us reflect on the extent of our freewill and the reality of our existence, while administering a foundational course on the history of western philosophy; a torment of thoughts that leaves one with very few words.


SecondSight said...

Glad you enjoyed it ! Stay on the tips of those rabbit hairs ;)

D'you remember a picture similar to the Morton salt one, that used to be on our textbooks in India- of a boy and a girl sitting under a tree and reading a book, which had a picture of a boy and a girl sitting under a tree.... etc etc.? :)

Neeraja said...

Oh yes I remember... it was a Hindi Textbook... Nayee Kiran?? :)

Oorja said...

Hmm.. interesting. i will try to look for this one..