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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What I'm reading (#43)

If you're a fan of offbeat humor, you should read Swedish author Jonas Jonasson's loopy, fun novel The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.

The novel is about Allan Karlsson, the eponymous 100-year-old man, who is looking forward to the hundredth birthday party they're going to throw him in the nursing home so little that he climbs through the window of his bedroom, makes his way to the nearest bus station, and sits down to wait for a bus to... anywhere.  Any place that doesn't have Director Alice insisting that he be a good sport and have a good time and wear a sparkly party hat will be just fine with Allan, thank you very much.

But fate takes a turn when a disheveled young man asks Allan to guard his suitcase while he's in the restroom, and the bus arrives before he returns...

... so Allan takes the suitcase and absconds with it.

 

[Click the image above if you'd like to order the book from Amazon.]

What's in the suitcase, and what comes afterward, you'll just have to read about.  Along the way we find out about Allan's checkered past, wherein he traveled all over the world and met Harry Truman, Josef Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Chairman Mao (and Mao's illustrious fourth wife), and inadvertently joined the Manhattan Project when he was hired as the coffee boy and showed that he had an uncanny knack for figuring out how to blow things up.  The result is a little like a cross between Forrest Gump and John Cleese's movie Clockwise, where a seemingly small mistake -- in Clockwise, getting on a train going in the wrong direction -- starts a series of dominoes falling that results in complete and utter chaos for everyone involved.

In Allan Karlsson's case, the one act of boarding a bus with someone else's suitcase causes an increasingly hilarious series of close escapes, the entire time with Allan placidly sailing through the furor with serenity and a Panglossian certainty that everything will turn out all right in the end.  After all, that's worked for him for a hundred years, why should it stop working now?