Since its original publication in Sweden by author Jonas Jonasson in 2009, The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has become an international phenomenon. It became available in 2012 in the U.S. after its English translation by Rod Bradbury and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Just like the last Swedish sensation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish movie has already been released and a Hollywood version is rumored to be in the works. Hatchett Press | Paperback | September, 2012 | 400 pp
The title says it all. In this whacked-out, ridiculously far-fetched satire, a very capable geriatric takes the reader on a Forrest Gump-style romp through Sweden (and history) while evading law enforcement, a criminal gang of thugs, the district attorney, and the growing media circus.
Meet centenarian Allan Karlsson:
“There are only two things I can do better than most people. One of them is to make vodka from goats’ milk, and the other is to put together an atom bomb.”
The story begins on Allan’s 100th birthday and the senior care facility is hosting a special birthday party for him. Everyone will be there including the mayor, everyone – that is – except for Allan. He has no intention of going and so he does exactly what you would expect him to do – he climbs out the window and disappears. He walks to the bus station in his slippers, manages to steal a very heavy suitcase, and boards a bus going as far as his fifty crowns will take him.
The suitcase proved to be very valuable to a local criminal gang and soon Allan has a few dim-witted thugs on his tail as well as local law enforcement who are desperately trying to find the missing centenarian. Allan meets and befriends a petty thief, a hot dog stand owner, a foul-mouthed redhead, a recently converted Christian, and an elephant – all of whom help Allan make his great escape to freedom.
But this recent tangle is just one more notch in the hysterically absurd life of Allan Karlson, and it isn’t even his strangest journey. The chapters revolve between Allan’s present day conundrum and his life from childhood on up, leading up to the day he climbed out the window in the old folks’ home.
The readers follow Allen through his childhood exploration and love affair with explosives, to a brief incarceration after blowing up his house, to a career in explosives that took him to Spain resulting in dinner with General Franco, to a journey to the U.S. where he solved the problem of creating an atom bomb and became friends with President Truman, to China where he saved the life of Mao Tse-tung’s wife, to Iran where he saved the life of Winston Churchill by outwitting the secret police, back to Sweden where he was essentially kidnapped by Stalin and brought to Russia to work with Yuri Borisovich on the atom bomb, to a Russian gulag for refusing where he meets Einstein’s mentally inferior brother Herbert, to North Korea where he becomes chummy with Kim Il Sung, to Indonesia for a very long vacation, to Paris to work as an ambassador, and finally as a spy with the CIA. All this after only two years of education in his childhood, through chance occurrences and some quick-thinking, and by Allen’s ability to nonchalantly create superiority and an air of vital importance in any conversation.
Being locked up in a senior facility on his hundredth birthday without vodka, well – that wouldn’t do for this elderly man. If he wasn’t going to die, he would just take a new step and see where it takes him.
This is a fun book, perfect for all ages, and a great way to chase off those winter blues. Highly recommended to all.