The Director’s Notebook
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared , by Jonas Jonasson, is to my mind a perfect summer read. It is silly, ingenious, engaging, and full of imaginative connections between an oddly-assorted group of oddly-endearing people.
This novel falls into the category of picaresque, which is just a grand way of saying that the central character, in this case a wily old man named AllanKarlsson, goes from one adventure to the other, pretty much without skipping a beat or losing any sleep. Compared by many critics to the appealing adventures of Forrest Gump, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has become an international best seller. Perhaps in addition to the lively and unpredictable plot, the book’s appeal is created by the fact that Allan, on the run at age 100 from his repressive and unsympathetic nursing home, represents for all of us the importance of maintaining our dignity and self respect even in extreme old age.
Yet there is not really any serious point to this book. Allan Karlsson’s myriad adventures are too bizarre and satirical for anything resembling seriousness. But what fun they are to read! Over the course of the book, Allan helps invent the atomic bomb for the Americans, shares his knowledge with the Russians, rescues Mao Tse-tung’s wife, helps establish a new government in Indonesia, blows up some bridges and buildings and steals a suitcase stuffed with millions. And that covers only a small portion of his adventurous and wacky life.
Through it all Allan stays devoted to only two things: his passion for vodka and his dislike of all politics and religion. Oh, and towards the end of his life Allan comes to love a cat and a woman, with mixed success. Stepping through the nursing home window and becoming a fugitive is no great challenge for Allan, the centenarian. In fact for Allan the craziness that follows his escape is only a logical extension to the daffy adventures of his 100 year old life!
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is escapist literature at its most goofy and appealing: as I said earlier, the perfect summer read. And what an amusing summer movie it would make as well!