The book is called The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. And because I am a fan of simplicity (although not always brevity) I knew I had to buy it.
Allan Karlsson, a centenarian with an affinity for adventure and penchant for vodka, is a kooky character. His expertise in explosives also helps.
Adventure seems to seek him out as he walks off with a young man’s suitcase and starts a whole chain of events which reveal that even at 100, life can be exciting. His philosophy for life—“it is what it is, and what will be, will be”—coupled with his distaste for politics allows him to grapple with the most absurd encounters with prominent figures from history and not even bat an eye. It’s refreshing and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed by the chaos that follows him. Yet Karlsson’s feet are firmly planted on the ground as his only motivation is a good meal, good drink, and good company. Jonasson proves to be a formidable storyteller, mixing history and hijinks, to create a tale of a 100-year-old that you hope will live forever.
Jonas Jonasson (beloved author) is Swedish and, naturally, the book was written in his first language.Translated books often make me nervous for the fear that a joke will be missed or the imagery may not carry over, but the English edition of the 100-Year-Old Man had me in stitches. It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it will make you laugh out loud on your commuter train (to the mortification of your fellow passengers). Plus its original title is: Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann. How cool is that?
It’s interesting that the back cover draws a parallel to Stieg Larsson though. Perhaps the only other Swede who comes to mind immediately, but I sincerely doubt he is the only other Swedish author in the market. (Hello, scandinaviancrimefiction.com, and the ever-favourite Swedish Writers page on Wikipedia)
Jonasson’s writing certainly deflates to inflate, as the absolute ridiculousness is wonderfully understated. Allan certainly appears unflappable. Yet, there is the presence of gentility, manners, and a friendliness which brings to mind Ikea-level service and towns where everything is closed on a Sunday.
But then you read passages such as:
Allan and Julius remained at the dinner table, both wondering how a vet with a ponytail could end up as a failure of a hot-dog-stand proprietor in one of the most out-of-the-way places in the county of Södermanland. A vet with a ponytail, what sort of sense did that make? These really were strange times.
How can you resist? I strongly recommend this book to lovers of adventure, comedy, or anyone simply looking for a unique story. All of your friends will love it. You may also like… Come, Thou Tortoise.