A fictional book which follows the adventures and misadventures of its protagonist, The Hundred-Year-Old Who Climbed Out Through the Window and Disappeared is a hilarious and enjoyable romp through the 20th Century, one that doesn’t take itself seriously. So far this book, by Jonas Jonasson, has been translated into 29 languages and has been a bestseller in many countries.
Allan Karlsson’s health is good, so good that to his dismay he is facing the horrors of putting up appearances for this 100th birthday. Leaving the mayor, the press, his friends and the bane of his existence – the nurse – behind, he escapes moments before the big celebration. When a young man asks Allan to keep an eye on his suitcase at the train station, the centenarian steals it and gets the ball rolling on a month-long chase involving the police, the underworld, and a handful of accomplices.
Parallel to the escape, Allan’s long life is revealed to the reader. As it turns out, Allan is not just an old man with a suitcase, but one of the most influential persons to ever walk the face of the earth in the 20th Century. Alas, through the comedy of life, Allan is only remembered for his age.
There’s a focus on lampooning the espionage genre and parodying the mystery/chase genres as well. The important people Allan has met and influenced (Truman, Churchill, Mao, Lenin and more) are marked by their dark sides rather than being the pillars of world affairs we have built them up to be. Allan’s contribution to the Manhattan Project doesn’t get bypassed either.
I got the feeling that The Hundred-Year-Old Who Climbed Out Through the Window was very much influenced from Forrest Gump and/or Woody Allen’s Zelig. Allan Karlsson is the eternal optimist — half way through the book it is clear that nothing will happen to him, but it is how he gets out of trouble and his unbelievable luck and improbable coincidences which makes the book so entertaining and endearing.
Though the characters are not as well defined as they could be, I still enjoyed this book very much. Disney bought the rights to the movie yet this 2010 publication has still not been translated into English. With the huge influx of Scandinavian literature recently, it is amazing to me that this hasn’t happened yet. It’s wonderful to be able to read in more than one language.