2012 Books in Translation

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 Translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury

Five words from the blurb: escaping, unlikely, journey, momentous, life

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is the word-of-mouth bestseller of 2012. Positive reviews seem to be cropping up on a daily basis – so I thought I’d add another one to its arsenal.

The book begins with Allan jumping out of his bedroom window just before his 100th birthday party. Tired of being cooped up in his retirement home he decides to escape and have one last adventure. He begins an unrealistic journey involving murder, a suitcase of stolen money, and many narrow escapes from the police. Over the course of his travels we learn about his life; an equally unlikely story about meeting the greatest leaders of the last century at key moments in history.

This book was totally mad, but it had a heartwarming charm that thoroughly entertained me.

The corpse fell forwards and hit his forehead on an iron handle.
‘That would have been really painful if the circumstances had been a little different,’ said Allan.
‘There are undoubtedly advantages to being dead,’ said Julius.

My only problem was that I felt the book was a bit too long. I enjoyed seeing Allan meet Harry Truman, Chairman Mao and Churchill, but by the time he met Kim Il Sung I thought the joke was wearing a bit thin – there are only so many world leaders a person can meet without the stories becoming a bit repetitive. I think it might have been better if he’d been an ordinary citizen having a mad adventure, instead of a book that included so many famous people and a potted history of the 21st century.

Overall this was an entertaining, original book and as long as you don’t take it too seriously I’m sure you’ll be charmed by it too.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

It’s very funny with enough intelligence in the historical flashbacks to keep more serious readers engrossed. The Tattooed Book

…fresh, funny and different, but I can’t say that it is very good. Swamp of Boredom

…one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. The Savvy Reader

27 replies on “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson”

I read this book last month on a trip to Sweden and loved it! I agree that they could have left out one or two of the world leaders and it wouldn’t have diminished the book but the humour in it was very appealing and I warmed to Allan Karlsson and his life philosophy, even if I don’t share it myself. That said, he may be onto something when he believes that a lot of good can come from sitting around a table with a bottle of vodka to resolve any differences…

Kath, I’m sure the fact you read it in Sweden would have made it all the more appealing. I didn’t agree with most of what Allan got up to, but agree it didn’t matter – he was so entertaining. It is amazing how much more lenient I am with him because of his age. Had he been 20 I’m not sure I’d have warned to him in the same way.

I enjoyed this too, but I agree that it outstayed its welcome. Recently, The Complete Review published a much more scathing review, arguing that it was over-violent and a little unimaginative (and that Allan was fairly one-dimensional). I was a little more postive (!) than that, but it’s not a book that you’d be rushing to reread.

Tony, I’d agree that Allan was a bit one-dimensional and I won’t be re-reading it, but as a simple piece of entertainment it did the job. Too much violence?! No! It was more slapstick than anything else and although it wasn’t realistic it was great to see what Allan could get away with. If only it had been about 100 pages shorter.

I ve been a bit hesitant reading this one or getting it always wary of books that seem to be the book of the year for translation this is one of those I like the idea but may not read it yet ,all the best stu

Stu, I think you’re wise to be wary – I’m not sure this is for you. I could be wrong, but either way you might be better off reading this once the hype has gone away.

I’m halfway through this and not really enjoying it. I’m all for a bit of silliness but some really unconvincingly implausible events at the start really put me off. Even silliness needs to have some level of plausibility for me.

I think the narration in the audio is putting me off a bit also. The narration is bed-time-story child like and grating.

Funnily enough I enjoyed Harold Fry more. Maybe narration had a lot to do with it also. There’s no comparison between Jim Broadbent and the other guy. I might be more careful with the audio preview in future.

John, Sorry to hear that you’re not enjoying it. I haven’t heard any of the audio so can’t comment on that, but I have listened to several other audios that just haven’t worked in the past. It could be one of those that just works better in print.

I agree that some/most of the action isn’t very realistic, but I just loved the craziness of it all. Sounds like it is time for you to give up and move on, or at least switch to a print copy. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

I too am half way, and I hate this book… I’m in a book club and we meet this friday – I dont think I’m going to have it done…. FML!

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