Allen Karlsson has quite a taste for vodka. This affinity, with a similar affection for blowing things up, has more or less defined the path of his century of life. Right up to the age of 100.
Born in 1905 in Sweden, Allen Karlsson is the Forrest Gump of his time. Karlsson doesn’t just meet Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, a young Kim Jong-il, Franco, Richard Nixon, various Soviet and American spies, petty dictators, gulag officials and Winston Churchill, he has drinks with them.
But that’s all in the past. In Jonas Johansson’s novel, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared we meet Allen, he’s climbing out the window of an old folks home right before his 100th birthday party. His goal is just to get away, no matter what obstacles may be in his way.
“It was hardly more than a metre high, but Allan was a centenarian, not a high-jumper. Malmköping’s bus and train station awaited him on the other side, and the old boy had just realised that this was where his shaky legs were taking him. Once, many years ago, Allan had crossed the Himalayas. Now that had been difficult. Allan thought about that, now, as he stood there faced with the final hurdle between him and the station. He thought so intensely about it that the stone wall in front him began to shrink down to almost nothing. And when it had shrunk down to its lowest point, Allan crawled over it, age and knees be damned.”
But Allen has no plan. He ventures to the bus station, hands over a few dollars and says he wants to go as far as his money will take him.
Johansson’s amusing, adventurous, road trip, fairytale lands the centenarian in the middle of a kidnapping, murder, drug conspiracy, crime spree involving several nefarious individuals, an almost-doctor/veterinarian/literature expert, a beauty, an elephant and a dog. And lots of vodka. (Did I mention vodka?)
But the spree at year 100 is not the first of Allen’s adventures. Told in flashbacks interspersed with the current narrative, Allen’s life story is one for the ages. (Pun intended) A prison term in a Russian gulag, fighting in the Spanish Civil War on both sides, blowing up various things and helping to create the Atom Bomb as well as a small trip across the Himalayas . . . on a camel.
I listened to the Audible version of this book while driving and was completely immersed in the story and in reader Steven Crossley’s humorous voice. Johansson has put to word Shakespeare’s image: “but man . . . plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make angels weep.”
There’s a little something for everyone in your book club in The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared: romance, adventure, crime, travel. And if you have reluctant, there’s a film version (nominated for an Oscar for makeup and hair design) that I intend to watch this weekend. Here’s the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2113681/?ref_=ext_shr_eml_vi_tt_ov_vi#lb-vi2283254041
MENU & PLAYLIST
And anything else from any country basically anywhere that you might feel like including
iTunes has the soundtrack to the movie available https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hundred-year-old-man-who-climbed/id841011356
Another fun route would be to choose food/music from each decade of Allen’s life, or each country he visited.
Enjoy! Happy Reading.