I stumbled upon Gaarder’s now famous Sophie’s World years ago at a school book fair. Having made several false starts on it since, I gobbled the book whole in a span of 3 days some months ago.
My second Gaarder find is as delightful as Sophie, if a little less obscure, but not lesser in depth. Gaarder picks up on a fanciful premise, perhaps even one that many false-start writers have briefly indulged in, in cerebral privacy – that of recording every scrap of idea for a story that they chance upon, and supplying inspiration to the content starved writers of the world.
The main character in Gaarder’s novel an immensely clever and intelligent man who picks up on what might seem like a singular disability – the lack of a need to write, and establishes himself in a monopoly of ideas. The Spider is now an eminent figure, if with a vague designation, in a literary tradition that seems to be founded in his own fertile mind. A trader in constant dealing with writers, all such translucent creatures, he seems trained in the art of making pithy comments on the nature of writers – the good, the bad, the average, and the deluded.
However, secrecy, and a finely honed skill for ‘beating about the bush’ are intrinsic to his dealings. This leads to the weaving of a widespread, but fragile web, spun by the monopolistic Spider himself. With the passing of time, his buyers seem to be catching up on him, or is it his own barely leashed imagination? The Spider soon finds he has to spin faster in order to keep himself from getting caught in his own web.
Intertwined within his own life’s tale are a myriad of stories that have twisted into being from his own experiences, unconscious as he is of them. And it is in these scattered clues, in the recalling of his own mosaic life that a narrative begins to emerge.
James Andersson’s translation of Gaarder’s novel is deeply absorbing. Like a thriller, it’s tempting to sprint through it till the end, but it’s worth the reader’s while to remember that The Ringmaster’s Daughter comes from the creator of Sophie’s World – the story is full of barely hidden observations, comparisons, and philosophically inclined comments that need to be “sniffed, chewed, and thoroughly digested.”
Review By Ajooni Singh Chhina
Gooblet – Goobes Book Republic