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I rather enjoyed this: a canter through the history of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to Sartre, as told in a series of mysterious communications from an enigmatic teacher to instruct 14-year-old Sophie. I loved the moment when she learns about Aristotle and immediately goes home and tidies her room - would this tactic work for real teenagers, I wonder?

Then the narrative form abruptly lurches sideways about two-thirds of the way through, and we realise that this is not quite the book we thought we were reading - and in fairness it is a move that has been well enough signalled. This leaves Gaarder with minor difficulties in resolving the plot, but that doesn't matter all that much.

On the substance: I have (whisper it softly) never been terribly excited about philosophy, but Gaarder does unpack the relationship between Hegel and Kant better than I have seen elsewhere, and also guided me through the relationship between philosophy and literature (at least of the last three centuries or so). So I learned something, which was partly the point.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
emilytheslayer
May. 22nd, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
Having originally read the book as a teenager, I can assure you it does not work. :) Or at least didn't on me. It's possible that getting the actual letters as my introduction to Aristotle might have had a different outcome. I always did love that book though.
gareth_rees
May. 22nd, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Did you like it more than Anathem?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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