The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Title: The Hundred-year-old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Author: Jonas Jonasson

Review by Marianna Meloni

In the Old People’s Home, Allan Karlsson is locked in his room. It’s the day of his one-hundredth birthday but he’d rather not take part in the celebrations. He despises the Old People’s Home – especially its director Alice Englund – and his dislike is worth an attempt to escape. Despite his creaking knees and still wearing his slippers, he manages to jump through the window onto the flowerbed and heads full speed (which is unsurprisingly low) towards the bus station, where the latest of his troublesome adventures is about to begin. The unlikely journey takes him across the whole Sweden and leads the reader along the extravagant story of his life.

Narrated with brilliant comic verve and rich with historical references, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of the Window and Disappeared demonstrates how easily the unimaginable can become reality and single-handedly sets aside the disbelief in a perfect circle from the first to the last paragraph.

Thanks to the clever and fast-paced intertwining of past and present, this page-turner had me pushing back my bedtime, won by the need to find out what was about to happen, when the plot suddenly took a diversion into a different time period. With the episodes chained to one another and spread across multiple chapters, none of the sections are ever conclusive. The following one normally opens with a new anecdote, before catching up with the closure of the previous and ending again on a cliff-hanger. It might sound a bit confusing, but is extremely gripping.

Paradoxical history

Jonas Jonasson is a talented storyteller whose journalistic career made him gain the gift of clarity, with a certain inclination for historical characters and their most infamous deeds. The historical backbone and the engaging writing endorse even the most unconceivable account – like the one when Allan impulsively steals a suitcase at the bus station – and make everything seem just normal. Triggered by the continuous clash between documented reality and absurd coincidences, Allan’s life offers an explosive mix for a book that is hard to put down.

The protagonist’s utter indifference for politics and his trivial preoccupation towards his primal needs are the necessary counterparts to his direct involvement with many crucial historical events of the twentieth century. Jonasson refrains from sending an explicit political message but, instead, takes the Mickey by placing a picaresque character to deal with the darkest times of modernity.

Cherries on the top of this multi-layered cake are a typically Scandinavian dark humour, a certain taste for the macabre and the boundless stoicism that sees our hero facing the most horrible situations with stone-cold diplomacy.

Much like politics, love plays a marginal role in Allan’s life but, towards the end of his odyssey, we get the looming suggestion that perhaps there is a hidden place where all of us could find inner peace and that such a place might be even closer than we think.

Review by Marianna Meloni

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