Jostein Gaarder shares philosophical views at Taipei book fair

During the Taipei International Book Exhibition on Friday, Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder shows a poster of a stamp with his name in Chinese languag

Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder gives a speech at the Taipei International Book Exhibition on Friday. (Photo Courtesy of Taipei Book Fair Foundation)

World-renowned writer Jostein Gaarder from Norway gave a speech by sharing his intriguing views on philosophy with hundreds of book fans at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) on Friday.

This appearance was the Norwegian writer’s first-time visit to Taiwan. Before the speech, he visited the Lungshan Temple and the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.

"It is a privilege for me to travel and speak in so many different countries to talk about the amazing journey that we all explore,” Gaarder said. “I feel my message is very simple -- that the world exists and we exist. Don’t you think it’s so mysterious and strange?”

He said the way people communicate with each other through telling stories.

"That’s why my book ‘Sophie’s World’ got many readers in the world because I believe that our brain is made for stories rather than for digital information.”

The book titled “Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy” turned Gaarder from a philosophy teacher into one of the world’s bestselling writers. It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages since its first publication in 1991.

The Norwegian writer is adept at using dialogues to convey philosophical thinking and views. In his newest book, The Castle in the Pyrenees, first published in Norwegian language in 2008, a man with rational thinking and scientific reasoning used to have a relationship with a woman believing in supernatural powers. After splitting up for 30 years, they meet again. Gaarder used their dialogues to discuss philosophical questions.

The Chinese-language version of this book was published by Ecus Publishing House, Taipei, in January 2011.

In a powerful voice and witty tone, he said a philosopher is always curious about the world by asking questions and is wondering why human beings exist.

"As we get old, we stop asking questions. But we should encourage young people to ask questions.”

At the age of 12, Gaarder woke up one day and asked his parents, “Don’t you think it’s strange that we exist?” But his parents told him to stop thinking questions like this. From that moment, he made up his mind that he would never be a grown-up and that he would never take the world for granted.

In response to a reader’s question about his favorite philosophers, the writer said if he were in heaven one day, he would like to meet Socrates, Jesus and Buddha.

In Gaarder’s books, the description of natural landscape has a prominent place because his country’s untouched scenery continues to inspire him and it’s important to preserve the earth.

"The earth is probably the only place in the entire universe where intellectual beings with human-version consciousness as we have can be found. So it’s not a global responsibility to protect the place we live, but it’s a cosmic responsibility.”

He said many of the philosophical questions asked throughout different times are pretty much the same, but the most important philosophical question he found in the 21st century is how human beings can defend and preserve the earth amid accelerating climate change and global warming.