27 August 2015

[Book Review] The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared

TitleThe 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared
AuthorJonas Jonasson
Pages: 463
PublisherHyperion (Hachette Book Group)
Edition: First International Edition, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7868-9145-0
Price: $9 U.S.
My rating: 4/5

"Revenge is not a good thing. Revenge is like politics: one thing always leads to another until bad has become worse, and worse has become worst." 
(Allan, p. 84)

What's Inside?

This book told about Allan Karlsson's adventure at the present (note: "present" refers to the year of 2005), which was begun on his 100th birthday on May 2, 2005. Yes, 100th birthday--and he was fit and healthy enough to climbed out the window of his room in the Old Folk's Home, and disappeared. Actually, he didn't really disappeared, since later the Chief Inspector Aronsson, the detective in charge of investigating the case of Allan's disappearance, found his traces.

This book also told about Allan's adventures around the world during his sensational life back then (1905 - 2005). As an explosion expert lived in the era of world wars, he was involved in many important events of twentieth century. Not only that, but also luckinesses, his readiness to take risks, his cunning and intelligence had brought him to have relationships with many world's magnates: Stalin, Franco, Truman, Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il, and de Gaulle. He had saved the life of Mao Tse-tung's wife and Churchill. He also made friends with Albert Einstein's hapless half-brother, Herbert Einstein and his wife, Amanda--a dull-witted politician from Indonesia.

Where Was Allan Heading To?

On his indoor slippers, Allan went to Malmköping's bus station and coincidentally met a member of Never Again, a criminal gang. When he was supposed to catch a bus, the Never Again guy left his suitcase and asked Allan to keep an eye on that because he urgently needed to relieve himself. Then, the bus came, and the guy didn't come out of the restroom yet, so Allan took the big suitcase with him, or in other word, stole it. Allan got off at Byringe station and met Julius Jonsson, who lived at the station. Julius received Allan with open arms. After had dinner together, they decided to open the suitcase and was taken aback. They stared at the suitcase's contents: piles of 50 million crowns of money! The Never Again guy had catched Allan up and found them. But the two other guys--one was very old and the other was pretty old--unintentionally made him die in a freezer room. They were soon running away with the suitcase stuffed with money and met Benny, who later became their chauffeur. The three of them escaped to Rottne and were accommodated at Lake Farm owned by Gunilla Björklund.

While, the police had presumed that Allan was kidnapped by criminal gang called Never Again. Later, the police's statement differed: Allan and the gang were suspected as the murderers of the two members of Never Again. Now, the inhabitants of Lake Farm were hunted by both the police and the other members of Never Again.

What You Should Be Wary of When Reading This Book

Uh, this is me, trying to read this book at the beach. Quite cool, eh?

Reading this book can be thrilling, so I want to warn you first about:
  1. Its long and not-catchy title. This is the first time I read a book with that so long title. But somehow, this title is quite interesting.
  2. It's stuffed with a heap of astonishing and nearly unbelievable happenings, especially those in Allan's past adventures. As a reader, maybe you will be very shocked once you listen to Allan's past experiences, which were engaged in relationships with historical figures. Just like Prosecutor Ranelid, maybe you will be taken aback:

    "What are you talking about? Were you drinking tequila with Vice President Truman when President Roosevelt died?" (p. 392)

    "I know bloody well who Churchill was, I just... You and Churchill together in Tehran?" (p. 399)
  3. The appearances of world's historical figures in the contexts of comedy and foolish story. For examples, when Allan made Stalin furious just because he had chosen a wrong poem to read (a Verner von Heidenstam's poem). Allan didn't know who Heidenstam was, but Stalin knew very well. Heidenstam stood up for Germany--Hitler's regime. And, you know, at that time, the world was at war, between the communists (Russia, China, North Korea) and liberalists (USA and its ally) dan Hitler's Nazi.
  4. Too many foolish happenings, but strangely they had saved Allan's life time after time. For example, when he and Herbert disguised as Marshal Meretskov from Russia and his chauffeur. Confidently, they went to North Korea and asked to meet Kim Il Sung (the president). It was surely a boo. Kim Il Sung knew very well how the real Marshal Meretskov looked like, so Allan and Herbert were arrested.

    In spite of the foolishnesses, those happenings also show us Allan's cunning in facing dangerous circumstances (plus his readiness to take risks). For example, he exploded the prison in Tehran, when he happened to explode Churchill's car, hence he and Herbert could escape.
  5. A series of pretty preposterous happenstances, but somehow they were fit together. For example, when the two victims (the members of Never Again, Bylund and Hulten) murdered by Alland and the gang, miraculously were found in Djibouti and Riga, respectively. Prosecutor Ranelid couldn't arrest them since "the chain of circumstantial evidence was disintegrating" (p. 350).
  6. There were no really either protagonists or antagonists. The characters metamorphosed dynamically along the plot. Per-Gunnar, the boss of Never Again, was a perfect model of this phenomenon. At first, he hunted Allan and the gang for stealing his suitcase and money, and murdering his two members. But, in the end, he teamed up with them.
  7. Don't ever be Allan's partner in his past adventures. His partners were likely dead in the end, while he himself was alive. This was what happened to Allan's partners in crossing Himalaya and also Pastor Ferguson, his cell-mate in Tehran.
  8. Allan's motto, which may be yours too.

    "... it was what it was, and that in the future whatever would be would be." (p. 36)

    This motto had made him be calm and cold-headed in terrible circumstances. He also had no interest in politics. As an autodidactic explosion expert, he worked for whomsoever, either communist or liberalist. He was a mugwump, but it didn't save Allan's life. This reminded me of Dimas--a character in the Pulang, a novel by Leila S. Chudori--who experienced a similar phenomenon.
  9. Benny's life, that was unique (he had alternated between many majors for 30 years, and always dropped out right before graduated). Learning a lot of things curiously and well is more important than just learning one thing by halves just to get the academic title and diploma, eh? Yeah, but you certainly don't want to end up like Benny, who mastered many branches of science but couldn't get a proper job everywhere since he had no any diplomas.
  10. Isn't it too much to have Allan solve the nuclear problem simply and too easily in front of the nuclear experts in Los Alamos, USA? Some things were too good to be true.
  11. Allan had showed me how connections with big shots/top men could save our lives and bring benefits. For example, when Allan got his passport easily by using his connection with Truman (p. 208). By only lifting a finger, Truman could do everything.
  12. Having no high education didn't mean that you could do nothing. Of course, we know that Albert Einstein dropped out of high school at 15. So did Allan, who left school after his 10th birthday. No wonder, if he applied a job and had an interview, the interviewer would certainly doubt his capability, though Allan had had a bunch of experiences in explosive matters. That was what happened to Allan when Doctor Eklund interviewed him in AB Atomic Energy's recruitment.
  13. If you an Indonesian, you will know clearer (in witty ways, of course) how politics works in our country. It is too much and unbelievable if a foolish woman like Amanda (or Ni Wayan Laksmi) could be a well-known politician and Indonesia's ambassador in Paris. She did all of that by using hush money.

    "Indonesia is the country where everything is possible."
          (Allan, p. 444)
Reading this fast-moving plot was thrilling yet amusing. It is great to have a historical-political lesson wrapped in a book full of comedy like this. 

"But Allan did not get into other people's business--if he could avoid it, which he usually could." 
(p. 4)


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