The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This strange, funny book has become a publishing sensation in Europe, selling millions of copies along with the film rights. This surprised me at first, as the adventures of Allan Karlsson make for a pretty harmless, if amusing read. But therein, I suppose, lies its charm. That and the fact that it provides a whimsical crash course in twentieth century political history.

Karlsson, the titular old man, doesn’t really feel like attending his own hundredth birthday party, sportingly put on by the dictatorial staff at his nursing home. So he runs away and accidentally commandeers a suitcase stuffed with millions of dollars of drug money. So far, so good – a classic road-trip beginning. Soon, police and journalists, not to mention the drug syndicate, are hot on his tail, so he teams up with a mismatched crew of assistants to … well, he isn’t really sure. But as the book rambles along, we are given flashbacks of Allan’s past hundred years, where, somehow, he manages to be present, if not instrumental, at nearly every key moment of the twentieth century.

Taking in his stride adventures that bring him face to face with Churchill, Stalin, Mao, Truman and Franco among others, Allan concludes that dinners with world leaders are simply the done thing. Sternly apolitical, but happy to help and do his best as long as there are friendly manners and vodka readily available, Allan comes across like (as many critics have noted) a sort of centenarian Forrest Gump, only one who serenely plays lethal hands with Iran, the KGB, the CIA and the atomic bomb.

Jonasson calls his book ‘a hopeful satire on the shortcomings of mankind’. He somehow strings these absurd plotlines together into a light and enjoyable read, creating a modern fairytale in the process.

Imogen Dewey

Cover image for The One Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

The One Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

Jonas Jonasson

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