Sophie's World

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Sophie's World
First edition (Norwegian)
AuthorJostein Gaarder
Original titleSofies verden
GenrePhilosophical novel
Publication date
5 December 1991
Published in English
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback) and audiobook (English, unabridged CD & download)
Pages518 pp
LC ClassPT8951.17.A17

Sophie's World (Norwegian: Sofies verden) is a 1991 novel by Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder. It follows Sophie Amundsen, a Norwegian teenager, who is introduced to the history of philosophy as she is asked "Who are you?" in a letter from an unknown philosopher.[1] The nonfictional content of the book aligns with Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy.[2]

Sophie's World became a best-seller in Norway and won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1994. The English translation was published in 1995, and the book was reported to be the best-selling book in the world that year. By 2011, the novel had been translated into fifty-nine languages, with over forty million print copies sold.[3] It is one of the most commercially successful Norwegian novels outside of Norway, and has been adapted into a film and a PC game.

Plot summary[edit]

Sophie Amundsen is a 14-year-old girl who lives in Lillesand, Norway.

The book begins with Sophie receiving two messages in her mailbox and a postcard addressed to Hilde Møller Knag. Afterwards, she receives a packet of papers, part of a course in philosophy.

Sophie, without the knowledge of her mother, becomes the student of an old philosopher, Alberto Knox. Alberto teaches her about the history of philosophy. She gets a substantive and understandable review from the pre-Socratics to Jean-Paul Sartre. In addition to this, Sophie and Alberto receive postcards addressed to a girl named Hilde from a man named Albert Knag. As time passes, Knag begins to hide birthday messages to Hilde in ever more impossible ways, including hiding one inside an unpeeled banana and making Alberto's dog, Hermes, speak.

Eventually, through the philosophy of George Berkeley, Sophie and Alberto figure out that their entire world is a literary construction by Albert Knag as a present for Hilde, his daughter, on her 15th birthday. They also hypothesize (correctly as it turns out) that the "real world" in which their story is being written may itself also be fictional. Hilde begins to read the manuscript but begins to turn against her father after he continues to meddle with Sophie's life by sending fictional characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Ebenezer Scrooge to talk to her.

Alberto helps Sophie fight back against Knag's control by teaching her everything he knows about philosophy, through the Renaissance, Romanticism, and Existentialism, as well as Darwinism and the ideas of Karl Marx. These take the form of long pages of text, and, later, monologues from Alberto. Alberto manages to concoct a plan so that he and Sophie can finally escape Albert's imagination. The trick is performed on Midsummer's Eve, during a "philosophical garden party" that Sophie and her mother arranged to celebrate Sophie's fifteenth birthday. The party soon descends into chaos as Albert Knag loses control over the world, causing the guests to react with indifference to extraordinary occurrences. Alberto informs everyone that their world is fictional but the guests react with rage, believing him to be instilling dangerous values in the children. When a Mercedes smashes into the garden, Alberto and Sophie use it as an opportunity to escape. Knag is so focused on writing about the car that he does not notice them escaping into his world.

Having finished the book, Hilde decides to help Sophie and Alberto get revenge on her father. Alberto and Sophie can interact only weakly with items in Albert Knag's world and cannot be seen by anyone but other fictional characters. A woman from Grimms' Fairy Tales gives them food before they prepare to witness Knag's return to Lillesand, Hilde's home.

While at the airport, Knag receives notes from Hilde set up at shops and gateways, instructing him on items to buy. He becomes increasingly paranoid as he wonders how Hilde is pulling the trick off. When he arrives back home, Hilde has forgiven him now that he has learned what it is like to have his world interfered with. Alberto and Sophie listen as Knag tells Hilde about one last aspect of philosophy—the universe itself. He tells her about the Big Bang and how everything is made up of the same material, which exploded outward at the beginning of time. Hilde learns that when she looks at the stars she is actually seeing into the past. Sophie makes a last effort to communicate with her by hitting her and Knag with a wrench. Knag feels nothing, but Hilde feels as though a gadfly stung her, and can hear Sophie's whispers. Sophie wishes to ride in the rowboat but Alberto reminds her that, as they are not real people, they cannot manipulate objects. In spite of this, Sophie manages to untie the rowboat and they ride out onto the lake, immortal and invisible to all but a few. Hilde, inspired and mesmerized by philosophy and reconnected with her father, goes out to get the boat back.

Table of Contents[edit]


The book has been translated into several languages, including Portuguese, Persian, Bengali, English, Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu), French, German and Chinese. Below are mentioned the names and translators of the translations.

  1. Arabic: عالم صوفي
  2. Portuguese: João Azenha Jr, O Mundo de Sofia
  3. English: Paulette Miller, Sophie's World
  4. Persian: Hassan Kamshad, دنیای سوفی, 1997, Niloofar Publications
  5. Russian: Tatyana Dobronitskaya, Юстейн Гордер, Мир Софии, 2000
  6. Hindustani: Satyapaal Gautam, Sofi ki Sansaar (Hindi); Shahid Hameed, Sufi ki Duniya (Urdu)
  7. Turkish: Sofie'nin dünyası
  8. Bengali: G.H. Habib, সফির জগৎ
  9. Chinese: Xiao Baosen, 苏菲的世界
  10. French: Le monde de Sophie, 1995
  11. Azerbaijani: Narmin Kamal, "Sofinin dünyası"
  12. Thai: "โลกของโซฟี"
  13. Spanish: Kirsti Baggethun and Asunción Lorenzo, El Mundo De Sofía
  14. Malayalam: സോഫിയുടെ ലോകം



In 1999, Sophie's World was adapted into a Norwegian film by screenwriter Petter Skavlan. It was not widely released outside of Norway. Kjersti Holmen won an Amanda Award for her role in the movie.[4]


The 1999 film was also presented as an eight-part TV series in Australia and Iceland, again scripted by Petter Skavlan.

It was also adapted for television in 1995 by Paul Greengrass and shown on the BBC as part of The Late Show. This version starred Jessica Marshall-Gardiner as Sophie, Jim Carter as Alberto Knox, and Twiggy as Sophie's mother.

Board game[edit]

In 1999, it was made into a board game by Robert Hyde and Ken Howard, and published by Sophisticated Games Ltd.[5] The game involves answering trivia on famous philosophers and requires players to talk for several minutes on philosophical topics such as animal rights.

Computer game[edit]

In 1998, it was adapted into a PC and Mac CD-ROM game by The MultiMedia Corporation.[citation needed] The game allows players to learn about philosophy as in the book, while adapting the metafiction elements for a virtual world.


English space rock band Spiritualized named their 1997 studio album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space after a line in the novel. Chinese math rock indie band Baby Formula's self-titled album has a track called "Sophie's World (苏菲的世界)".


In the Xiao Baosen-translated Chinese version (Simplified Chinese) published by Writers Publishing House, parts of the content related to Karl Marx were deleted according to the requirements of the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China, such as the last 32 paragraphs in the Marx Chapter.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gaarder, Jostein (7 October 2015). "Sophie's World in Danger". Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-24. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder". July 1, 2020.
  3. ^ Mattin, David (14 March 2011). "Sophie's World author turns from philosophy to climate change". The National. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  4. ^ "AMANDA-VINNERE 1985–2006" (PDF) (in Norwegian). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 September 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2008.
  5. ^ Bloor, Chris (2000). "Sophie's World: The Boardgame!". Philosophy Now. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  6. ^ "《苏菲的世界》"马克思"的相关删节". Archived from the original on 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2012-06-14.

External links[edit]