There are good reads, fun reads and sometimes there are wildly absurd reads.
This bestselling 2009 debut novel by Swedish journalist and novelist Jonas Jonasson chronicles the (very) highly improbable misadventures of centenarian Allan Karlsson, who decides there’s more to life than the nursing where he currently resides.
Allan is no ordinary or reluctant senior citizen.
He’s also an explosives expert, who started out in munitions as a boy, blew up his neighbor’s cow, and later his own home. That explosion was on purpose as you learn.
Perhaps that’s WHY the novel has become a worldwide bestseller and is considered Sweden’s answer to Forrest Gump, the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. And, it too has been made into a feature film.
But unlike Forrest who is moody, Allan is upbeat and sees the good in most people. But very unlike Forrest, he prefers vodka shots to boxes of chocolate.
Swedish fiction like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larssson, has focused on grim thrillers. The 100 Year Old Man propels Scandinavian fiction to an extremely light-hearted direction, which is OK with me as I could never get through Larsson's trilogy.
Allan skips out as the press, residents, and the town’s Mayor await his entrance. He exits his bedroom window, goes to the bus station and buys a ticket based to the farthest destination he can afford. A young man asks him to temporarily mind a suitcase. The bus comes before the man returns and Allan leaves with the suitcase hoping it contains a change of clothes; instead it’s full of a LOT of cash. Soon, Allan finds himself pursued by the police as a missing person and by a biker gang who want the suitcase back.
Jonasson moves through Karlsson’s life recounting the fugitive centenarian’s explosive career.
Allan has witnessed or participated in noteworthy bombings of the 20th century and traveled the world sharing meals and vodka shots with Truman, Stalin, Churchill, Franco, de Gaulle and Mao’s third wife. In a Soviet Gulag, he befriends Herbert Einstein, described as “Albert’s idiot half brother,” and spends months trying to explain an escape plan to him.
In addition to being pursued by the biker gang, he teams up with dubious characters, including a hot dog seller, eternal student and feisty woman with a pet elephant. And along the way is involved in a couple of (accidental) murders
Ridiculous and absurd you think? Yes, it's all that and more.
Curious? You can either read the book, see the movie — or both,