Reading Jostein Gaarder Sophie’s World in 1995 brought me fond memories. It was such a long time ago but I remember it as a piece of important work that I will re-read one day (two copies sitting on my shelves testify for a fervent intent!)
“My father died eleven years ago. I was only four then. I never thought I’d hear from him again, but now we’re writing a book together.”
I found this 151 pages The Orange Girl during a charity book sale.
It ‘s about Georg Road, aged 15, whose grandparents found his father’s letters from the lining of the push chairs in the family home in Humleveien. The letters are Georg’s father written for the future when Georg is mature.
The person who figures most in the letter of course is the Orange girl, whose identity is revealed at the end of the story. It was cheesey, but I was still caught by surprise at very end. Gullible me.
The Orange Girl was called thus because the day Georg’s father, Jan Olav bumped into her, she was carrying a bag of oranges and wearing an orange anorak at times.
In true tradition of metafiction style, besides writing about the orange girl, Georg’s father talks about the Hubble Space Telescope and the Big Bang Theory. Not to a large extent, but a few paragraphs. Georg understands that by picking up the light from distant stars, the telescope actually looks back into the past.
Gaarder gave a very good sense of place in Oslo, giving out what seems like a touristic landmarks of Oslo. I was marking down all the names and places that he mentioned and hopefully have a glimpse of them through google map. Here’s what I found (may contain spoilers):
Point A – Stortingsgaten
Jan Olav met the Orange girl at the tram to Frognerveien, turning towards the Parliament. Somewhere around the turn to the Parliament Stortingsget, the Orange girl spill her oranges on the tram.
Point B – Youngstorget Fruit Market
Naturally hoping to bump into the Orange girl again, where else could you find her but in the city’s fruit market?
Point C – Wergelandsveien Cathedral
Both Jan Olav and The Orange Girl are not religious but on Christmas Eve they both went to church at Wergelandsveien and guess what they met each other again!
If you can see it in the map, there is a main thoroughfare called Karl Johan. Amongst these cafe, 19-year-old Georg’s father, Jan Olav sat here for four hours waiting for the Orange Girl to appear.
Point D is Humleveien – Humleveien is the family home of Georg grandparents.
Point E is Holmenkollen – it’s where Georg’s father been to, hoping to see the Orange Girl but was disappointed. Georg and his father went back to Holmenkollen later.
“This year you and I stood down on the level and looked up at all the ski-jumpers. The weather on that March day was quite unique. A rare, mild wind had sighed over the country bringing temperatures that were almost summery. The snow for the huge ski-jump had to be transported half way across the country, or from the mountains near Finse to be more exact.” – Jan Olav page 73
And this! is the ski-jump!!
At the very end, when the Orange girl tried to help Jan Olav recalls the streets of his childhood, she mentioned she lives around Humleveien? Irisveien? Kloverveien? of all Jan Olav couldn’t remember. Look at the following map this is what I found, the 3 streets are parallel or perpendicular to each other, ok to be exact Irisveien is perpendicular to Humleveien.
I felt as if I just tour the city of Oslo and beyond!
The book has its touching moment, in Georg’s father’s words:
But now it’s your turn to answer, Georg; the floor is yours. It was while we were both sitting out there that night under the starry sky that I made up my mind to write this long letter to you. It suddenly brought tears to my eyes. The reason I cried wasn’t just because I knew I might soon be leaving you. I cried because you were so young. I cried because the two of us couldn’t have a proper talk.
I ask again what would you have chosen if you’d had the chance? Would you have elected to live a short span on earth only to be wrenched away from it all, never ever to return? Or would you have said no, thank you?
You have only these two choices. Those are the rules. In choosing to live, you also choose to die. (page 127)
The dream of something unlikely has its own special name. We called it hope. – page 129
The book was a little soppy for me, but I can see how good it would be on the big screen adaptation. I don’t like reading soppy books but if I see it on big screen, I may shed a tear or two. The heartfelt message of a father in the throes of death, it is hard not to be moved. The translation from Norwegian language feels a bit choppy. Having said that, Jostein Gaarder has a flair of writing books for young adults yet readable by adult. I look forward to read his other books.
Take a look at the movie trailer, I was first introduced to it by Bina@if you can read this:
“Don’t tell me nature isn’t a miracle. Don’t tell me the world isn’t a fairytale. Anyone who hasn’t realised that, may never understand until the fairy tale is just about to end. Then there is one final chance to tear off the blinkers, a last chance to rub your eyes in amazement, a final opportunity to abandon yourself to the wonder you are bidding farewell to and leaving.” – page 115
Bianca Book Blog “The effects linger gently, and despite the story’s slight element of predictability, it is a pleasing and worthwhile read for adults as well as children.”
Mel Reading Corner “I would say it is a powerful book; one remarkable story that led me into thinking of the meaning of life and death, and how life could be appreciated even in small, simple ways.”
This is my first book for the Nordic Challenge 2011.
Hardback. Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2004 ; Length: 207 pages; Setting: Norway, Seville Spain. Source: Own copy. Finished reading on: 10 April 2011. Translated by James Anderson.
About the Writer:
Jostein Gaarder (born 8 August 1952 in Oslo) 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.
In 1997, he established the Sophie Prize together with his wife Siri Dannevig. This prize is an international environment and development prize (USD100,000 = €77,000), awarded annually. It is named after the novel.
Other books by Jostein Gaarder:
Diagnosen og andre noveller (The Diagnosis and Other Stories) (1986)
Froskeslottet (The Frog Castle) (1988)
Kabalmysteriet (The Solitaire Mystery) (1990)
Sofies verden (Sophie’s World) (1991)
Julemysteriet (The Christmas Mystery) (1992)
Bibbi Bokkens magiske bibliotek (Bibbi Bokkens magic library) (together with Klaus Hagerup (1993)
I et speil, i en gåte (Through a Glass, Darkly) (1993)
Hallo? Er det noen her? (Hello? Is Anybody There?) (1996)
Vita Brevis (Brief Life) (also appeared in English as That Same Flower) (1996)
Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine (1998)
Sirkusdirektørens datter (The Ringmaster’s Daughter) (2001)
Appelsinpiken (The Orange Girl) (2004)
Sjakk Matt (Checkmate) (2006)
De gule dvergene (The Yellow Dwarves) (2006)
Slottet i Pyreneene (The Castle in the Pyrenees) (2008)
I have no idea Jostein Gaarder wrote so many books since Sophie’s World!
Have you read his other books? If so which would you recommend?