“I sat thinking how terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as extraordinary as living. One day we suddenly take the fact that we exist for granted – and then, yes, then we don’t think about it anymore until we are about to leave the world again”.

Published in 1996, “The Solitaire Mystery” is a fictional novel that aims to instigate reflection on the simplicity and greatness of the miracle of life. This masterpiece was granted both the Norwegian Literary Critics Award and the Ministry of Cultural and Scientific Affairs Literary Prize. Definitely worth reading!

The story begins with a road trip from Norway to Greece. Hans Thomas is a 12-year-old boy enjoying the ride alongside his Dad. The two of them had jumped into this incredible and unpredicted journey in search of Hans’ mom, who had left her husband and child behind around 8 years ago to “find herself”. The only lead father and son have on the woman is that she is working as a model in Athens, the capital of philosophy. Dad, who is an amateur of the subject, keeps on asking young Hans deep questions about human existence. That’s because, to him, it is unbelievable how people usually forget about the fact that we are alive.

Quote From Book The Solitaire Mystery By Jostein Gaarder

Photo Credit: Lib Quotes

Along their way, Hans gets involved in a secret adventure that he hides from Dad and only keeps to himself. This fantastic journey begins after father and son stop at a gas station and a midget gives the boy a magnifying glass and tells him that he must go to the village of Dorf. Hans then manages to convince his Dad to take a little detour in their trip to visit this peculiar village. When they get there, the two end up going to a bakery, where the baker gives Hans a bag of buns. What the young boy could never imagine is that, in one of those buns, he would find a tiny book that he can only read with the help of that magnifying glass.

The history in the miniature book is told by a sailor named Albert. He describes the time when he got stuck in what he thought to be a desert island but later found out to be the home of some quite bizarre residents: a deck of cards. Apart from the joker, all other cards seemed to be not at all interested in finding out about their origin. But “a joker is a little fool who is different from everyone else. He’s not a club, diamond, heart, or spade. He’s not an eight or a nine, a king or a jack. He is an outsider. He is placed in the same pack as the other cards, but he doesn’t belong there”. And that’s exactly what sets them apart.

The Solitaire Mystery Author Jostein Gaarder

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Jostein Gaarder is also the esteemed author of Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy. Coming from a pedagogic family, he was born in Norway and used to teach philosophy in a high school in Bergen. Jostein studied theology at the University of Oslo and his work includes several novels, short stories, and children’s books. 

Published by HOLR Magazine.