When I began The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, I had no idea it had been made into a film, but after learning about it, I watched the trailer on You Tube and it seems to capture the spirit of the book. It really is a caper novel at heart.
It begins with Allan Karlsson feeling a bit disgusted with the whole idea of his hundredth birthday part at the nursing home with the mayor coming for some publicity photos while he can’t even get a good vodka. So he steps out the window and heads for the bus station.
Allan is a man who goes through life with a blithe spirit. His motto in life, his legacy from his mother, is “Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be.” He has the gift of equanimity, of accepting the world as it comes without anxiety, anger or hatred. He accepts life as it is and people as they come. He is utterly disinterested in the passions that animate most people, particularly politics He is completely uninterested in politics. All he needs is a place to sleep, food to eat and a good drink now and again.
He is, however, a highly skilled explosives expert and fascinated by anything that goes “Boom!” which leads him on adventures around the world and into enjoying meals with everyone from Truman to Stalin and many, many more greats of 20th century history. Like Zelig, he is everywhere.
I loved The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared at the beginning. So much so I have dithered about doing this review while trying to decide between my initial love for the book and how I felt at the end. Simply put, it’s a great story that goes on too long. We could so easily have skipped Paris, or shortened the ending. It felt like there were postscripts with postscripts at the end. I kept thinking, it’s finally over and yet there was more. Jonasson needs to learn that not every loose strand has to cleanly tied up. Not really.
Nonetheless, it is overall a delightful book. It simply goes on too long and what was once delightful becomes a bit of been-there-done-that tedium. (Is that what a hundred-year life feels like?)