The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

This book – which title takes up almost half of my whole blog post! – was another prize from Literary Bingo a few months ago, and has been sitting on my TBR pile ever since. I has no idea what to expect – I hadn’t really chosen the book myself, but the cover looked interesting…

Whatever I was expecting – it wasn’t that!

Completely absurd and delightfully batty, the story follows Allan Karlsson, starting with the moment he escapes out of the window of his nursing home on the day of his 100th birthday party. The narrative meanders along at a decent pace from there – never going quite where you expect it to go – and taking in much of Allan’s past as it goes. There’s 100 years of it, after all!

This is another one which hops around in time, but honestly, the whole thing’s so topsy-turvy that that’s hardly the jarring experience I’ve found it to be in some other books. What the style did remind me of – weirdly enough – was what I wished Catch-22 was. By this I mean the absurdist tone; one of my biggest struggles with Catch-22 (which longtime/regular readers my recall I didn’t actually ever finish) was feeling like I was having the whole surrealist point – WAR IS ABSURD! ISN’T WAR AN ABSURD THING? IT’S SO ABSURD AND SURREAL HOW HUMANS KILL EACH OTHER!!!!1!!!! – shoved in my face over and over at the expense of the narrative. Jonasson’s novel, in contrast, made some of the same kinds of points through similar methods, but at about a billionth of the volume. The seed of serious reflection is gently planted in your mind, and softly watered with humour and antics… instead of being bludgeoned in the face with the point.

And it is the same point! Somehow, this silly story about a grumpy old man’s adventures (and how he remembers his past adventures as a less grumpy, less old man) makes a subtle and clever point about the absurdity of global politics, war, and how human beings treat each other when they stop thinking of each other as human beings and start thinking of them as part of a system.

Of course, if you don’t want to think about all that – and it can be rather tiring to think about all that, admittedly – you can simply enjoy the incredibly improbable and delightful story!

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