Traversing the length of the library I make a random decision. I will take a book home that is not connected to what I am doing presently in terms of my professional commitment, that of a researcher. Then I spot Jostein Garder. In fact, I spot Sophie’s World first. Then I move on to read the name of the author. What a delightful moment, to realize the author always stays at the second position in the ladder. First comes the work itself. This positioning takes away a lot of shameful inhibitions. As an author or artist, everyone has inhibitions at certain stages in life, like when you get too many positive reviews or none at all.
Sophie’s World was sold more than any other book before the Harry Potter era. Then Potter came and the depressed mom made the whole world go gaga about the boy wizard, and especially about his friends.
I opened Sophie’s World and found the fonts a bit unimpressive. Ariel or Calibri. These are a good pair of word processor fonts. I have my reservations regarding book fonts, though. Ariel or Calibri are not good-looking fonts on printed pages. Online, they work just fine. It was a paperback edition, of course. Perhaps, they make hardcover with a bit more affection. Adjacent to Sophie’s World was sitting a volume of The Christmas Mystery.
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Never before had I read Garder. Sophie’s World grabbed my attention many times. I never had the chance to read any other of Garder’s works. I decided to take The Christmas Mystery too because it was Christmas time. For the past two years I have been pondering on spending the Advent time reading Charles Dickens’ Christmas books. One of my professors tells me that it was Dickens who helped engrave the essence of Christmas so closely to the hearts of people all over the world, especially of the Victorian England. Long sentences, craftsmanship, beauty... ah, Dickens.
Factors of unknown texture and origin kept hindering my plans to read Christmas books during the Advent season. Advent is celebrated in the Catholic tradition as a period of awaiting the Good News of the Messiah’s birth. The birth of Christ Jesus was already known through many prophesies performed by messengers of God throughout the Old Testament. Therefore Advent also proclaims the period of expecting the Good News. The Christmas Mystery satiates the desire of a believer to read a freshly nit yarn garnered with Christmas themes.
The story begins with a boy named Joachim discovering a hand-made advent calendar in a bookshop. Advent calendar is a mystery in itself to readers from India and for that matter, many other parts of the world. Although a Christian population lives in India, many conventions differ from that of the European tradition. In Kerala, there is some first century Christians as well as a teeming population of Latin Catholics and Protestants. Advent calendar is incorporated into celebrating the waiting for the Good News of Christmas. The tradition began by German Lutherans in 19th century. The advent calendar has many flaps, each one of which would be marked with a number. Opening each flap may provide the person with images related to the Christmas story or something like that. The advent calendar one could find in The Christmas Mystery is bound to provide more than mere images. The Magic Advent Calendar Joachim finds reveals a mysterious story. This gives the book its name.
The mystery that Joachim resolves at the end of the book leaves one wanting for more from author Jostein Garder. This book reminds one of childhood mysteries and fantastic times we had during those magical days. Also The Christmas Mystery is an opening for a foreign reader to the nature, life, and nostalgia of Norwegian people. The book is originally written in Norwegian language and includes many substantial fragments of wisdom. The translation has come about as a unique blend of English language and Norwegian tradition. In order to achieve this, the translator, Elizabeth Rokkan has even spelled some words different from their English counterparts, especially names.
The Christmas Mystery undertakes a uniquely fulfilling journey into time and through the magnanimous landscapes or Europe to Bethlehem. The journey into time proves to be a great lesson in history for any high school student interested in European and Middle Eastern history. Also the magical journey through continents irrevocably seals one’s affection towards the narrative strategies of Jostein Garder in taking us on a geographical ride to the birthplace of Christ. The Christmas Mystery is a book that nourishes the minds of its readers. “‘There are two ways of becoming wise. One way is to travel out into the world and to see as much as possible of God’s creation. The other is to put down roots in one spot and to study everything that happens there in as much detail as you can. The trouble is that it’s impossible to do both at the same time’” (55). The Christmas Mystery offers the chance to travel beyond time and space. It also humbles an individual reader to look around one’s immediate precincts and admire the magical moments around.
My reading The Christmas Mystery coincided with a series of train journeys undertaken for the purpose of keeping my spirit in alignment with my family. Every morning and evening I took train journeys to go back and forth about 90 kilometres, on a daily basis. By train this journey does not tax much on my physical well being. Because I get to spend my evening at home, I get to renew my spiritual and emotional self at home. If I were to convince you to the reasons for taking the daily train rides rather than taking lodging at the university itself, where I work as a Researcher, I may have to hide some of the crucial cones of the railway experience. The cones may be many, such as issues of hygiene to seating that lacks comfort in general compartments. However, in order to bring my point home, of the flouring spiritual and emotional comfort I receive at home, I must render other unfavourable aspects into an eclipse. This is the answer I learnt to the question that hasn’t been asked yet here, or perhaps will be asked quite evidently down below in the comment box as soon as you finish reading this review. Is Christmas the real birthday of Jesus?
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This question has been in existence for many years. I have come across the question many times in relation to the authenticity of my faith. If one were to judge The Christmas Mystery based on this unsettled dispute, this premise would push the story off hinges by default. The simplicity of The Christmas Mystery and its beauty is in the courage it takes in exploding the logic of reality and to burst free from the normal. Define it whichever way you want. Willing suspension of disbelief? The story takes you to places you have never thought you’d be able to traverse. The same is true about the real Christmas story too. Someone was born somewhere at some point in time. There is the psychological and archetypal evidence to that event in the hearts of those who believe and survive the brutalities of human existence. They fill their existential vacuum with the effortless grace of their convictions and believe. This is, the day we await during the Advent, the day of new birth, the day of hope, the day of courage to believe.
May this Christmas brings you clarity of thought, sincerity of purpose, and purity of action.
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