Saturday, June 01, 2013

Book: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson


"The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared" is a wonderful book. The story relates the present day adventures of Allan Karlsson, with alternate chapters telling of Karlsson's amazing travels and central influences on key political events of the past hundred years. We are taken from Sweden to lands afar including Moscow, Los Alamos, Stalingrad, Vladivostock, Bali, Paris and North Korea. On his adventures, Allan Karlsson has meetings and run-ins with the likes of Truman, Oppenheimer, Francos, Lenin, Stalin, Nixon, Churchill and Mao Tse Tung along the way. All this for a man with no interest in politics!

Jonas Jonasson's plain style of writing takes a chapter or two of getting used to but it fits the absurd, darkly comic nature of story very well and lends a fitting layer of innocence to the book. It also makes for a breezy read: after three of four days, I was half-way through this 400 page book and was already thinking about rationing out the remaining pages. Unfortunately for me, the stories pace picked up pace and got funnier and more exciting in the second half, and I couldn't help but to speed through to the end.

Jonasson has surpassed himself with this first book. It has sold some 4m copies so far and deserves an even wider audience.

 ****1/2 (don't read the quotes below if you are planning to read the book)

"Hello? Is that Bali Airport?" he said in English, and received the answer that they should immediately identify themselves of face the Indonesian Air Force.
"My name is Dollars," said Allan. "One Hundred Thousand Dollars"
 ...."Excuse me, Mr Dollars. The sound is very poor. Could you be so kind as to repeat your first name once more?"
...."My first name is Two Hundred Thousand," said Mr Karlsson.

Every day, Allan and Amanda went on suitably long walks along the glowing white beach outside the hotel. They always had lots to talk about, and they felt better in each other's company. They didn't go very fast, because she was eighty-four years old and he was now in his hundred and first year. After a while, they decided to hold each others hand, for balance.

He (Benny, a great character with a brilliant back-story) couldn't remember everything, he said, but you can cover a lot if you sit at a school desk for three decades, and do your homeork once in a while. Benny was an almost-vet, almost-doctor, almost-srchitect, almost-engineer, almost-botanist, almost-language-teacher, almost-sports-coach, almost-historian and almost quite a few other things. And for a bit of variety he had taken some shorter courses of varying quality and importance.

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