Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is, as the title suggests, about a centenarian (Swede Allan Karlsson) who decides that he doesn't want to die in a retirement home so he escapes and ends up having an amazing adventure. There are gangsters, there's a love story, a lot of unintended murders. It also goes back in time to tell his life story, which is a non-stop regurgitation of ludicrous events that ties him to every significant historical figure in the past century. Essentially, Allan's life is Forrest Gump on crack because he almost single-handedly guides the outcome of WWII, the Korean War, and the Cold War - just to name a few. And he does it all with an admirably lazy, I don't give a shit about anything attitude. It seems throughout that the only thing he finds worthy of his enthusiasm is alcohol, preferably spirits - as many can relate.
In this way, the book is a great satire of modern history. Allan's career as an explosives expertise is the catalyst for his participation in these important historical events, which is the author's way to trying to criticise just how much mutual destruction has been on the agenda in the past 100 years. Other issues that the author clearly draws attention to is dangers of religion and political ideology (and how destructive they can be as well); Allan's complete apathy for both seems to keep him out of trouble. Jonasson manages to say this with a consistent level of whit and hilarity and he's not above taking the piss out of everything and everyone. Truman's a bully but also somehow a pushover; Stalin has anger management issues; Song Mei Ling is a raging narcissist; Kim Jong Il is a spoiled crybaby. The list goes on.
A fun read, especially if you like sarcasm. But it does feel a bit too much at times since it really is non-stop with its in your face style comedy. Also, Allan may be a super cool old dude, but his completely blasé attitude towards life makes him not relatable and annoying at times so it's hard to take him more seriously than a cartoon character. If a person's only complaint about being exiled to a Soviet Gulag is not having access to vodka, then he's not just senile or an alcoholic. It means he's as lively a sack of potatoes. But the book is a good representation the kind of dark humour that jaded readers are fond of. Perfect for reading on the train or between sips of Gingerbread Lattes.