Friday, May 5, 2017

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

This was Jonas Jonasson's debut book and its as impressive as its title. Now made into a motion picture, the book has been translated into 35 languages and sold some 3 million copies worldwide. Enough for Jonas to retire to an island with his son and write two more books.

The book begins with Allan Karlsson's impending hundredth year birthday party at the old age home. The Mayor and the press have been invited on the momentous occasion and the old age home's dictatorial director Alice along with the other inmates is waiting for the event to begin. But Allan decides otherwise and climbs down the window minus shoes and jacket, which is no mean feat for a 100 year old man, and walks off with little money in his pocket. He reaches the bus station and is waiting for a bus to take him anywhere when a young man who needs to go to the toilet asks him rather rudely to take care of his suitcase while he uses the washroom. Allan's bus comes and he walks on to it with the large suitcase and heads off to any place where his fifty crowns take him. The young man who comes out of the toilet is not just young but of a criminal and violent mind, and he unleashes some of his skills on the ticketing clerk, the bus station and then the bus driver when he returns a little later. He even hijacks the bus and makes the driver take him to the place where the old man got off.

The old man gets off and finds another old man, Julius, 67 year old thief and unpopular character in the neighbourhood, and they both drink vodka and eat roast elk. The young hoodlum finds them and starts his violent ways when the old man fells him with a chair. They put him in the freezer and continue their drinking while the young man freezes to death - completely by oversight. At some point when they prise open the suitcase thanks to Julius's skills, they find fifty million crowns. It is later revealed that it is drug money and the young man Bolt was part of a gang named 'Never Again' (back to jail) and he was taking the money back to his boss. With the police now looking for a hundred year old man, the gang looking for its missing member and the money, Allan and Julius head off with their booty that they now decided to split 50-50. They then meet more members like Benny, the immigrant hot dog stall owner, Gunilla the Beauty and her two pets Sonja the elephant and Buster the Alsatian, Bosse who is Benny's brother and finally, the battered but philosophical boss of the Never Again gang, Pike himself. Benny falls in love with the Beauty and now everyone has to share the money. The police is on the chase and soon the Chief Inspector is also included in the friendly and open gang and he joins them.

Meanwhile we also learn how Allan spent his 100 years. After a normal start to his life, he somehow acquires expertise in explosives and soon finds himself traversing the globe meeting all the world leaders, being part of most of the momentous moments, and actually influencing the way the world turns out over the last century. Being close friends with Franco, Truman, Mao, Stalin, Churchill and being part of the few people who knows how to make an atom bomb, Allan who abhors politics, loves vodka, does not ever get angry and who has the luck of the devil, gets in and out of the trickiest situations thanks to an open mind and a capacity to say Yes to life. It is only late in his life when he gets angry at his cat Molotov being eaten by a fox that he blows up the fox and a lot more and lands in the old age home. But we know that the short stint at the old age home cannot keep him down and he is back to his old ways of eliminating people and getting his way, one way or another.

Once the 100 year old and the gang are exonerated of all the murders, they take off in a plane and land in Indonesia where he marries his old friend Herbert Einstein's now single wife and settles down to a happy life.

It's a funny book and one that is far better than I have read in that genre in a long time. It brought at least ten moments when I laughed out aloud and about ten more when I chuckled to myself which is not a mean feat. The writing style is his own and is engaging and fun. The characters remain with you long after the book is read - and they reminded me of Tam and Richie of 'The Restraint of the Beasts' simple fellows who love their drink and don't let anyone come in their way. And its fun to read of the way the author wades in and out of world politics and how our world is mostly manned by a bunch of people who do not really appear to be fully in control of their senses. I loved it and am looking forward to watching the movie now.

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