Throwback Paperbacks: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

100 year old man

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, is every bit as interesting, whimsical and quirky as the title suggests. The novel starts on the one-hundreth birthday of Allan Karlsson who with the press at the door escapes his birthday party at the old folks home in search of something better.

As the novel progresses, Jonasson seamlessly builds Allan’s character through glimpses of the seemingly ordinary centenarian’s extraordinary life. As we follow Allan’s escape from the local bus station, with a suitcase full of money stolen from a gang member, the rather comical getaway  of a hundred-year-old man becomes quite thrilling. Allan’s fairly clumsy escape is punctuated by flashbacks to his unlikely and incredible life. Jonasson blends history and fiction subtlely as Allan, a country boy from Sweden with a Bolshevik-turned-Tsarist father and a tough lumber-jack mother, is orphaned and begins a series of journeys through time. From flashbacks we see Allan less as the aged, accidental criminal introduced to us, and more as the most prominent background figure in history. From questioning Franco’s dancing, and celebrating his work on the atomic bomb with Truman, to narrowly escaping Stalinist Russia and working as a KGB/CIA double agent – Jonasson immerses the reader in Allan’s crazy, vivid journeys.

This novel was a surprisingly interesting read, interjecting pivotal points in the 20th century with the life of a strange, wandering Swedish man with a talent for making explosives, meeting world leaders and wandering the globe effortlessly.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is already a huge success in Europe, having been made into a Swedish movie of the same title.