The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Phew, let me rest, I had to type the equivalent of a sentence just to name the book and its author. This book was an impulse buy a little while ago and although it came with great recommendations from my online readers’ group, I didn’t find it gripping at all. I gave up after a few chapters, pushing myself to finish it because most of the time my group recommendations are bang on. I couldn’t, and then cut to a few months later, a pandemic and broke me, I picked it up again in the hopes of completing it this time, which I eventually did, but not before I almost gave up at 40% and decided to get myself some basic knowledge about the WWII from which the book is highly inspired/based on. It is probably the only medium-sized book that took me so long to finish when I had bought it so enthusiastically.
Allan Karlsson is a 100-year-old man and he has just climbed out of his window to escape his 100th birthday party. With slippered feet and his leaning stick as his companion, he walks to the bus stand and travels in a random direction, to a random destination but not before he siphons off with a suitcase of a much younger man who had placed it in his care to attend to his nature’s call. Why did Allan take the suitcase? Well, nobody knows and Allan himself doesn’t know either. From here starts a game of cat and mouse including the runaway centenarian, a few strangers, a criminal gang, the police, the media, and the reader.
What do you expect from a book that you buy considering to be a comedy? Or more precisely, to be some sort of comedy of errors? Not war and a dispassionate man in the midst of it meeting all the important generals of the time, Franco, Truman, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Churchill, Kim Il-Sung (and I don’t know who!) and being one of the primary factors in deciding the course of that war. No, not this. This book is not humorous, it’s darkly humorous. Blending the setting of WWII with the present seemed so naive. The war that took away so much from everybody and yet, here it is presented as a backdrop in a so-called funny story. I didn’t like this at all. This war setup, no, not at all. It could have been something else, but then that something else wouldn’t have had laid the foundations for the present. As much as I condemn the light manner in which the war has been treated, I am surprised by myself with the fact that I fairly liked it (I am giving it a 3 star because it is fiction, however absurd it might be) once I started understanding the relevance of the past (I acquainted myself with WWII almost after half the book was done and when I couldn’t move a word further) It is not a laugh out loud kind of book, it is more of a story of coincidences and sheer luck making the situations seem funny when they ought to be disturbing. Too much of coincidences ruin a story, I must say here. The writing is bland, again, as dispassionate as the lead (lost in translation? I don’t know) I simply couldn’t relate to it in any manner, more so because of all the passive voice that was used. The characters, however, were built up well. Despite the fact that most of the pages were about Allan, the supporting cast didn’t lose its steam. They were all as conscience-less as Allan. The narrative flitted between way back past and present, way too many times, alternating between chapters. When the lead is a centenarian, the past can range 100 years giving the reader a crash course in history. LOL. For an almost 400 page book, the pace is slow. Repetition is plenty, and so is nonsensical talk and childish explanation. I wonder if this is the normal Swede way of writing/talking in novels.
It is an entertainer though I wouldn’t recommend this book. You can give it a try, get a sample on kindle (or app) if you can, and see if you like it. You can’t escape its charm, the dark charm that the story has, and can’t help being as dispassionate as the lead towards all the mishaps once you settle into the story, and still it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.