Friday, November 09, 2007

Jostein Gaarder - the Orange Girl

I like Jostein Gaarder. His books are usually really good at that childlike sense of wonder, and at getting me thinking, as well as being very easy to read. The Orange Girl is all of that. It's not a masterpiece, like I remember The Solitaire Mystery being, but it's very good nevertheless.

A 15 year old boy, whose father died 11 years before, gets a letter that his father wrote to him just before dying.

This book is funny, it's sad, it's romantic, it's got a great sense of wonder and enthusiasm, and it makes me happier to be alive than I was when I started reading it.

The big question here is if you had the choice at the beginning of time to live or not to live, knowing that if you lived you'd only live for a short time, what would you do?


Anonymous said...

It sounds good.

I'm surprised you liked The Solitaire Mystery that much, though. I'd call Sophie's World a masterpiece, but nothing else that Gaarder's done has been nearly as good, though I liked Through a Glass Darkly a lot. TSA just seemed to be labouring ideas till they got tired, with a bit of a convoluted plot to boot (Sophie's plot is fantastic without being quite so forced, I think). I was glad I'd read TSA and Maya, but didn't look on them as particularly life-enhancing experiences.

Sorry if I've just upset a jug of cold water over your head. What did you like about TSA so much?

John said...

Here's the review I wrote of The Solitaire Mystery nearly 10 years ago...

Jostein Gaarder wrote Sophie's World. I think this book is better. It uses the same style of writing, but instead of putting across what other people thought (or close to what other people thought), it tells a story and asks questions. This is better because if people don't share the point of view of the person telling them what other people thought, then they will disagree. But here they are entitled to make their own opinions. It is also quite hard to put down.

The story is based, in lots of different ways, around a pack of cards. And the continual theme and message is the importance (or expendability) of the joker (/thinker, what is referred to as a philosopher in Sophie's world), the way that the world sees them as expendable but really it is they who appreciate the world the best. Here's a quote (and no prizes for guessing how I'd respond):

But if the world is a magic trick, then there must be a great magician, too. I hope one day I'll be able to expose him or her, but it isn't easy to reveal a trick when the magician never shows up on stage.

The story is very clever, self-referential, uses nested stories so that you get slightly confused, then has the main character confused at the same thing, ... And in doing so, you get the feeling that Gaarder is himself the joker in several senses of the word.

One of the good things about Gaarder rather than many other philosophers, is that he is genuinely humble about it. He tends to have Socrates' attitude of "The only thing I know is that I know nothing" rather than the arrogance as to the implications of their philosophy held by so many others. His characters have a kind of innocent joy in appreciating the world around them - quite probably why he uses children so much. The enjoyment of the world is so much greater though when you know the Creator.

The answer is probably because I like being the Joker too.

John said...

And Maya is on the pile of books I got out of the library yesterday...

John said...

Oh yes, and feel free to disagree with me.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, okay. Have you read Vita Brevis by the way? Not that I'll probably get round to reading it for a long time, now that The Orange Girl's jumped up my list.

By the way, I like your blog's new style.

John said...

No - though it looks interesting.

Before recently, my only real Gaarder-reading phase was in the late 90s.