The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2009)

by Jonas Jonasson

People everywhere must crave wacky stories: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared sold 6 million copies worldwide in its first six years and was made into a movie in no time flat.

As the book opens, Swedish centenarian Allan Karlsson escapes out a window minutes before his birthday party is about to begin at the retirement home where he lives. He wanders into a bus station and is asked to watch a suitcase that he doesn’t know is filled with money for a drug deal. Thinking it might contain a change of clothes, Allan swipes the suitcase and is on a bus before the owner emerges from the bathroom. That sets off a series of improbable episodes in which Allan, pursued by both the police and the drug dealers, constantly manages to escape unharmed and picks up colorful sidekicks who abet his life on the lam.

As the novel continues with flashbacks to Allan’s earlier years, it’s revealed that the adventure is merely the latest in Allan’s lifetime of adventures. Because he was an explosive expert, the self-described nonpolitical Allan had been courted by the likes of Churchill, Truman, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung. It turns out that Allan Karlsson participated in many of the 20th century’s most important happenings; for those who like to justify their escapist reading, The Hundred-Year-Old Man contains scraps of real events. In this book, though, fiction is definitely stranger than fact.


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