(Orion Books, UK, 2010, translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson) The plot is about Steinn (a man) and Solrun (a woman) who were lovers for five years before they broke up after a traumatic incident. Now, 30 years later and both married, with children, they meet at a fjord in Western Norway and begin “a stream of thought vibrating between two souls”. Steinn e-mails Solrun on a variety of subjects as diverse as quantum physics and agnosticism. Initially this reminds the reader of the mentor-pupil dialogue between Alberto and Sophie in Gaarder’s bestseller, Sophie’s World, but it eventually becomes boring. Fortunately the plot speeds up towards the very tense and unexpected conclusion.
The title refers to the painting “Le Château des Pyrénées” by the Surrealist René Magritte. Understanding this reference will help you to make sense of this intricate, multi-faceted novel, but even so, you will probably have to read it more than once to fully grasp it. The painting was on the cover of the original Norwegian edition of the book, Slottet i Pyreneene, published by Aschehoug, 2008.
Download a profile of Gaarder from the Aschehoug agency here: Jostein Gaarder profile
(Review by South African critic Marina le Roux)