The Treetop Philosopher: Background information when reading Nothing

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Nothing

by Janne Teller

Nothing by Janne Teller
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2010, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2012, 240 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Cindy Anderson

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Treetop Philosopher

Print Review

Although Nothing's protagonist, Pierre, seems to withdraw from the world, he is not necessarily a nihilist (one who believes in nothing). When he tells the other children he is "contemplating the sky, and getting used to doing nothing," and urges them to "enjoy the nothing that is," his attitude is reminiscent of the French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus. Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche both found some rationale for living inspite of the inevitability of death and the absence (in their view) of an afterlife. Trying to find a way to live life in spite of the emptiness he perceives, Pierre watches with disappointment from his plum tree at his friends who seek meaning in the world of objects (literally, in a pile of objects), rather than finding meaning within themselves. Following are a few interesting details about the philosophical movements and thinkers that play an important role in Janne Teller's story.

Existentialism
Existentialism is really an amalgam of different ways of thinking about the world, all of which pose questions about how individuals might find meaning and morality in life without depending on a personal deity. Existentialist philosophy concerns itself with many of the themes that make up the novel Nothing, particularly individualism, responsibility, choice and knowing (or trying to know) right from wrong. Two philosophers most closely associated with existentialism are Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus.

Friedrich Nietzsche and Nihilism
Nihilism is often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who was one of the first existentialists. Nietzsche actually argued against Nihilism - the view that nothing in life has value or meaning, and that existence is useless. Nietzsche believed that our social mores and values have no objective basis. Instead, he saw that morality (our idea of right and wrong) was something that emerged from culture and history. He did not believe, however, that this lack of objective morality made values meaningless. Although there are similarities, the character of Pierre does not come across as a traditional Nihilist.

Albert Camus and Absurdism
French Algerian writer Albert Camus (1913-1960) is known for a school of thought called Absurdism that would probably appeal to Pierre Anthon. Camus also opposed Nihilism, but did say that the "human condition" is mortality, and that the world lacks external meaning, even though we crave it. For Camus, this contradiction makes life absurd, and humans must accept the absurdity and try to live life happily. However, unlike Pierre, Camus believed that people can make their own meaning (as Pierre's classmates try to do), even if that meaning cannot be understood or felt by others.

Article by Cindy Anderson

This article was originally published in March 2010, and has been updated for the March 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Weight of Ink
    by Rachel Kadish

    An intellectual, suspenseful, and entertaining page-turner.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.