Sophie's World

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Sophie's World
Sofies Welt, 1993.jpg
Front cover of the 1993 German edition.
Author Jostein Gaarder
Original title Sofies verden
Country Norway
Language Norwegian
Genre Philosophical novel
Publisher Berkley Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (original hardcover), MacMillan (audio)
Publication date
1991
Published in English
1994
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback) and audiobook (English, unabridged CD & download)
Pages 518 pp
ISBN 978-1-85799-291-5
ISBN 978-1-4272-0087-7
ISBN 978-1-4272-0086-0
OCLC 246845141
LC Class MLCM 92/06829 (P)

Sophie's World (Norwegian: Sofies verden) is a 1991 novel by Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder. It follows the events of Sophie Amundsen, a teenage girl living in Norway, and Alberto Knox, a middle-aged philosopher who introduces her to philosophical thinking and the history of philosophy.

Sophie's World was originally written in Norwegian and became a best seller in Norway. It won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1994. The English version of the novel was published in 1995, and the book was reported to be the best-selling book in the world in that year. By 2011 the novel had been translated into fifty-nine languages, with over forty million print copies sold.[1] 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 (Sofie Amundsen in the Norwegian version) is a 14-year-old girl who lives in Norway in the year 1990.

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. 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 begins to follow into chaos as Albert Knag lords his 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 doesn't notice them escaping into the real world.

Having finished the book, Hilde decides to help Sophie and Alberto get revenge on her father. Alberto and Sophie cannot interact with anything in the real world and cannot be seen by anyone but other fictional characters. A woman from Grimm's 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 doesn't feel anything, 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.

Adaptations[edit]

Movie[edit]

In 1999 Sophie's World was adapted into a Norwegian movie by screenwriter Petter Skavlan. It was not widely released outside of Norway. Kjersti Holmen won an Amanda Award for her role in the movie.[2]

Television[edit]

The 1999 movie 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 Albert 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.[3] 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.

Music[edit]

English space rock band Spiritualized named their 1997 studio album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space after a line in the novel.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The National: Sophie's World author turns from philosophy to climate change on Sophie's World: "The novel has now been translated into 59 languages, and has sold an estimated 40 million copies." (14 March 2011).
  2. ^ "AMANDA-VINNERE 1985-2006" (PDF). Filmweb.no. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-20. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  3. ^ http://www.sophisticated-games.com

External links[edit]