Brought up on a sombre diet of Strindberg plays, the films of Ingmar Bergman, and Wallender on TV, I’d be hard pressed to name a Swedish comedian – until now. Author Jonas Jonasson must be a contender with his light-hearted caprice about The Hundred-Year-Old Man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.
Centenarian Allan Karlsson seems a bit like a Swedish Forrest Gump in the way he encounters and bamboozles the world’s leaders and is able to call in the odd favour from them later on when it is most useful. He lacks the intelligence and good fortune of Upton Sinclair’s Lanny Budd, another character who led a charmed life across a series of novels between the wars and met everyone who was anyone. Perhaps the best comparison would be Don Quixote accompanied by a whole regiment of Sancho Panzas. And I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say that Rosenante is an elephant! If, like me, you reckon that cock-up is responsible for twenty times the number of conspiracies, then this book could be for you.
While the book opens in this century with the slightly disgruntled Allan Karlsson deciding he did not want all the fuss of a celebration of his 100th birthday in his care home, it soon begins to tell the back story of Allan’s fascinating life. In successive chapters, current times news and past times recollection gradually converge and, at the end, some of the characters look like they are going to live happily for some time, if not forever, after. Great holiday reading.