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Lately it seems that the Scandinavians have been breeding crime novelists, because they’ve been arriving thick and fast, and usually very dark and very good. I’ve just discovered a book that’s very funny, and not about crime at all, although it does contain several murders and quite a lot of theft.
The title really is ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of his Window and Disappeared’, and that’s what it’s about.
The hero, Allan Karlsson, really is very nearly 100 years old, and he climbs out of his window exactly one hour before his centennial birthday celebration. From that moment on, two stories unfold, the first about his adventures in the present day and the second relating his life story.
Things will turn out all right
Allan has a knack for trouble and for getting involved in the most important events without trying at all. He has a wonderful philosophy that things will somehow turn out right, and of course they always do, with usually hilarious results.
Allan’s adventures are fantastic in the best way, and as he criss-crosses the world and experiences all the extremes of riches and poverty, he shares his various fates with a cast of wonderful characters.
Not a soft and corny heart
Many reviewers have compared the Hundred-Year-Old Man with Forrest Gump, and it does share many characteristics with that book and film. But whereas Gump’s story has a very soft and corny heart, Allan Karlsson had a hard childhood and survived the horrific and little-known Swedish policy in the early twentieth century of incarcerating and sterilising anyone who didn’t fit correctly into society. His saving grace is that he appears to hold no grudges.
Much of the book revolves around Allan’s expertise with blowing things up and his constant search for good vodka and interesting company to share it with. His problems usually result from finding himself unwittingly at the centre of some of the most important events of the last century, in the presence of many great historical figures. And he has a habit of saying or doing things that have a huge effect on subsequent events.
Rolling off the page
All this is told in an easy style that rolls off the page, and Allan’s present-day adventure carries on the same themes, when he becomes the subject of a huge police manhunt, suspected of murder and grand theft, and manages to collect the most unlikely group of new friends and fugitives you’re ever likely to read about.
I loved this book, it made me laugh many times, and it was absurd and heart-lifting and very clever.
Please no infinitely awful American remake
I very much hope the Swedes make a film about it. I already know I’ll really enjoy it, and that I’ll refuse to watch the infinitely awful American remake.
I’d like to pass on my copy, if anyone out there thinks they would like to read it get in touch with On The Wight.