Sunday, November 25, 2012

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared

I was in a bookstore last month when I picked up this novel. The cover was bright orange, the pages looked rough and recycled, the jacket cover described an adventure. I hadn't heard of the book, despite its claim as an "international bestselling sensation". It appealed to me I decided to get it. 

I have not read many books written by Swedish authors. Apart from the Stieg Larsson series, "The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" is only the second. In fact, it was published in Sweden in 2009 and has only recently become available in English.

I admit, I left in on my bedside table for awhile. Then one day, I was in a mall food court and as I looked around, I saw what appeared to be a sea of familiar orange books. When I got home that night, I began to read.

The main character Allan Karls­son is in a seniors' home and is about to turn one hundred years old. He doesn't want any part of the big party that's planned, so he climbs out his first floor window and heads for the bus station where he buys a ticket with all his money. As Allan waits for his bus, a young man asks him to watch his suitcase so that he might visit the WC.  Allan's bus arrives, the man has not yet returned, so Allan gets on...with the suitcase in tow.

As the story continues, Allan and the suitcase have many unusual encounters, difficulties and misadventures including a run in with gangsters. There flashback chapters which add details about Allan's background and the many years leading up to his 100th birthday. It turns out, as is the case with many elderly people, that he has quite the tale to tell. His influence in world history and politics is undeniable.

This is much more than a simple plot with a few twists. It's a cleverly written, well executed piece of fun...not award winning literature, just a fun adventure. The author does a wonderful job showing the reaction or lack thereof of a 100 year old to events. Allan had seen it all, done it all and not much phased him. What was important to him at this stage of his life was comfort, properly cooked food and the occasional drink of vodka.

I laughed out loud at some of the humorous descriptions in the book. For example, Allan escaped in what were called his "pee slippers'. Enough said. Also, when the girlfriend of a motorcycle gang member was left with the task of sewing the group's name "The Violence" on the back of their jackets, her poor spelling resulted in "The Violins". This ended in some interesting issues and misunderstandings.

The contrasts, the comparisons, the history and the view of the world through 100 year old eyes makes for a good read. I will certainly pay more attention to Swedish authors in the future.

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