Monday, May 19, 2014

Author Spotlight: Jostein Gaarder

Jostein Gaarder is quite unlike other authors. From his GoodReads bio:

Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories and children's books. Gaarder often writes from the perspective of children, exploring their sense of wonder about the world. He often uses metafiction in his works, writing stories within stories.

Gaarder was born into a pedagogical family. His best known work is the novel Sophie's World, subtitled A Novel about the History of Philosophy. This popular work has been translated into fifty-three languages; there are over thirty million copies in print, with three million copies sold in Germany alone.

In 1997, he established the Sophie Prize together with his wife Siri Dannevig. This prize is an international environment and development prize (USD 100,000 = 77,000 €), awarded annually. It is named after the novel.

Jostein Gaarder is, by far, my favorite author. When my husband asked me recently to name a book I would want if deserted on an island, I named Sophie's World, the first novel I read by Gaarder. Written from a child's point of view, as many of his works are, "Sophie" is a novel about the history of philosophy. Gaarder handles this very complex and intricate subject so deftly and through such a compelling story that the reader doesn't realize it meets most requirements for college-level Philosophy 101. It really is quite brilliant.

And then there is Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine, also published in English as That Same Flower. St. Augustine, in his Confessions mentions a woman; the woman whom he renounced in favor of celibacy. The premise here is well-summarized from Wiki: In the introduction, Gaarder claims that he found the old manuscript at a bookshop in Buenos Aires and translated it. According to his plotline, it was written by Floria Aemilia, Augustine's concubine, who after being abandoned by him, got a thorough Classical education, read his Confessions (where she is mentioned but not named, unlike their son, Adeodatus) and felt compelled to write this text as an answer. 

Doesn't that make you want to run right out and get it??

The Christmas Mystery is about a boy who opens each day on an advent calendar to find pieces of paper which create a story. The story is about a girl who slowly travels back in time to Bethlehem to see the Christ-child. As the family tries to find the maker of the advent calendar, the story begins to intertwine with their own.

Finally, The Solitaire Mystery. Another story-within-a-story, this one features Hans-Thomas, The Sticky Bun Book, a cross-country adventure to find an estranged mom and a drink of a wonderful liquid called Rainbow Fizz. Again presenting philosophical thoughts and ideas, it is done with more of a light-touch, and the reader doesn't realize at first that they are also on a philosophical journey.

Four of my favorites from this favorite author. Why spotlight him now? Because I just received his The Orange Girl in the mail, and I am exited to read it!

No comments:

Post a Comment