Updated on May 19, 2015
19. ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson
[Some spoilers ahead]
On the day of his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson decides that he’s had enough of the retirement home he’s living in, so he climbs out of the window (wearing his slippers) and walks away.
He is without a plan, but he soon finds himself embroiled in a cross-country chase, with both police and dangerous gangsters hard on his heels. Along the way he meets a master criminal, a hot dog vendor, a foul-mouthed woman, a dog and an elephant, and throughout it all he remains wonderfully laid back.
I just love Allan’s character. His attitude towards life is one of relaxed acceptance. He’s always friendly, he hardly ever lies and he’s the absolute personification of che sarà sarà.
As the story progresses, we learn about Allan’s incredible life: growing up in Sweden he works with explosives, and with this knowledge he finds himself fighting with both sides in the Spanish Revolution, having dinner with Truman, getting into trouble with Stalin and having a not insignificant part to play in the creation of the atom bomb. Allan takes part in almost every major event of the 20th century and he does it all completely apolitically.
This novel deals with very serious events in history and contains a huge number of (often grisly) deaths. But still, it remains lighthearted and even laugh-out-loud hilarious. When I could see that certain odious characters were about to get their fatal comeuppance, a huge grin would spread across my face, because ultimately bad characters fail and good characters come out on top.
Allan never loses his touch: the modern day story progresses with plenty of action and excitement, and Allan at one hundred years old is as accepting as he ever was.
This book is charming and an absolute joy to read. I will definitely be reading more by Jonasson and I can see myself coming back to read The Hundred Year Old Man again. Politics, religion and the weight of history take a back seat in Allan’s world. To him, life is all about finding interesting company, a good meal and a drink of vodka.
If you liked my review, why not buy the book and let me know what you think?