“The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson

Zur deutschen Fassung.


In those public bookshelves, 96.5% of the books deposited are rubbish. That’s only natural, because people keep the really good books or give them to friends.

There are exceptions, but they are rare.

A few days ago, I passed such a glass box during my evening walk around Munich. Even though I’m well aware of the above statistics, not least because I created them out of thin air myself, I can rarely restrain my curiosity.

Without much hope, I rummaged through the usual cheesy love novellas, outdated editions of law books, and volumes of SAT exams from 1995 that would be considered unsolvable today. Probably because a trip to Sweden is imminent, I reached for the off-puttingly thick and long-windedly titled book “The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Swedish-sounding Jonas Jonasson.

Not wanting to remove the book from public access on mere suspicion, I sat down on a nearby park bench and began reading.

At first I smiled. Then I grinned. Then I held my stomach laughing. And all that while on the first few pages.

I spent the next two evenings until late at night with Allan Karlsson, a centenarian explosives expert blasting his way through Sweden and 20th century history. Originally, he just wants to escape his own birthday party (an understandable desire), but an hour later he’s already being hunted by the local mafia, finding refuge with a fellow senior citizen who is also not quite law-abiding, and thus begins their great escape.

The plot and entanglements are ingeniously constructed, but the tone is so light and humorous, even when people are dying to the left and right. The revolutions, world wars and other annoyances that Allan Karlsson has survived in his long life are told in alternation to the crime and escape plot, with only the experience of forced sterilization being truly distressing. Through all other situations, he winds his way with humor, friendly reserve and constant open-mindedness to new things.

Thrilling like a Swedish crime novel, but funny like a Swedish Švejk. And a book that, with its middle-aged to very old protagonists, makes you look forward to that third stage of life.

So for once, here’s a reading recommendation for rather light literature. If anyone has read any of the other books by Jonas Jonasson, I would be curious to hear your opinion. – And did any of you ever find anything worthwhile in these public bookshelves?

Links:

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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11 Responses to “The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson

  1. I haven’t looked through the public libraries that people put out. I haven’t been able to read for almost a year☹ It’s like I have “Reader’s Block”. Either my mind wanders, or I fall asleep. It’s the first time in my life I’m not reading. I blame the pandemic, and the ridiculous way the “leaders” handled it.🤷🏼‍♀️ I have faith that I’ll be able to read books again. 📚

    I used to look through the box at the Public Library that was labeled “Free Books”… two of my favorite words. I found “Woman On The Edge Of Time” by Marge Piercy there. It was thoroughly enjoyable. I left all the SAT, and Bodice Rippers for someone else😉

    I’m looking forward to virtually visiting Sweden!

    • My trick is to schedule lots of other things that I should do, like work, exercise, studying, learning Spanish, etc. And then I use books to distract myself from what I should really be doing.

      But I have heard from several people that they cannot focus right now. And I think that’s okay. It’s a deadly pandemic, and the most important things are to stay alive and to stay sane. It’s not a contest to be super-productive. (After all, I still haven’t written a book, although I would have had time. :/ )

      Lastly, reading my blog is almost as good as reading a book. Or at least almost as good as reading some books. ;-)

    • Good point… your blog is sometimes as long as a book😂😂 but it also has pretty pictures.

      We’re staying safe… sanity was questionable before the pandemic😉

  2. That’s a book that I picked at an airport just because of the name and loved it. I wasn’t even half that age then. Glad it is still being read and passed along.

    • My copy looked like it had been passed along several times. And after I read it, I gave it to my father, who enjoyed it very much and who is now going to pass it on to my sister.

      I am sorry for the author and the translator who only got paid once for this copy, but environmentally, this makes sense. And I am sure everyone involved in this chain of custody will spend the savings on yet more books.

  3. Iosif Fettich says:

    If you ever see the film made after the novel – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hundred-Year-Old_Man_Who_Climbed_Out_of_the_Window_and_Disappeared_(film) – I’d be curious how you’d rate them.

    • How did you like it?
      I am usually reluctant to watch a movie made after a book that I enjoyed greatly, because in most cases, it’s quite a disappointment.

  4. Jan Parry says:

    your photographs are sublime and your account is thought provoking as ever, thank you. I hope that you had a most enjoyable birthday. I must ask whether you were able to take time to swim in any of these beautiful locations, especially Valcanover where you took a break ?

    • Thank you very much!
      Yes, it was a really relaxing birthday. I have come accustomed to spending the day alone, preferably in nature.
      I don’t actually like to swim, I have to admit. I do like lakes and coastline, but I just like to walk along them. (In my mind, swimming is something for an emergency, like when the ship sinks. ;-) )

  5. Jan Parry says:

    sorry I think that I just posted my comment on the incorrect blog as I had both open – but you can see which one I am referring to !

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