Friday, 17 August 2012

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disppeared: Jonas Jonasson (Sweden)

It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages.
This novel, which is a cross between Forest Gump and Australian novel Steve Toltz' A Fraction of the Whole, is the funniest book I have read well, since A Fraction of the Whole. Written by Swedish born writer Jonas Jonasson and translated from its original language, it has since become an international best seller, and justifiably so.
The story begins as the blurb says, with the 100th birthday of Allan Karlsson, a resident in an old people's home. Sitting quietly in his room, waiting for his 100th birthday celebrations to begin, he decides that he wants none of it, and so climbs out of the window into the flower beds, and so begins his adventure, or does it, for it transpires that Allan has been having adventures all of his life.
Interwoven into the tale of Allan's escape is the story of his life, and this is no ordinary life, for during his travels, Allan has helped both the Soviets and Americans to build atom bombs, worked for both the KGB and CIA, saved the wife of Chairman Mao and blown up the town of Vladivostok in an attempt to escape from a Siberian Gulug - so that he can escape into North Korea and find some vodka.
The imagination and humour of Jonasson know no bounds, as we are introduced to the 100 year old Allan's four accomplices and partners in crime - a petty thief, a hot dog salesman, a gangland boss, and a red haired beauty (not forgetting her adopted elephant Sonya). The four misfits, who meet under unusual circumstamces, together go on the run, following Allan's theft (or borrowing whichever way you look at it) of a suitcase which happens to contain 50 million Swedish Crowns, the proceeds of a drugs heist.
This is an absorbing. laugh out loud tale of hilarious proportions, some of which I can well imagine, are very close to the truth - closer perhaps than those in authority would like us to believe - a total exercise in urine extraction, made all the better by the fact that it is so outrageously believable.
This is quite simply the funniest book I have read in a long while, and one that I would recommend - to everyone !

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