Jonas Jonasson, The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man etc etc

What were they expecting, I wonder?  So cranky, readers who really ought to have just enjoyed this novel (or the movie based on it, in this particular case).

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out His Window and Disappeared, like so very very many novels, just isn't serious. And that's fine. Yes, it's from Scandinavia, and it has a long and somewhat cryptic-sounding title that's directly referential to something central to the novel, but this doesn't mean it's a dark novel ghost-written by Stieg Larsson. It's possible to read it as something like an absurdist commentary on the personality-driven machinery behind modern culture, but it's neither sweet like Forrest Gump nor openly satiric like Being There. This doesn't mean it's a failure on the terms of either of those other novels (or the movies based on them, which are really what people are thinking about when they talk about the texts); it's a different novel, aiming at something different.

Précis: a centenarian climbs out the window of his nursing home and disappears into the Swedish afternoon, finding himself on the run from an increasingly large number of criminals, police officers, and journalists. While on the road with a motley herd of one-off characters, Allan Karlsson tells his companions (and readers) the deliberately unbelievably complicated story of his life, almost all of which was spent accidentally influencing international politics in numerous countries all over the world.

If you look at blogged book reviews of this novel, like this one for example, in most cases you'll see reasonable readers making just the right assessment: in spite of there being several deaths, in the end it's "light-hearted and silly: the kind of book to read on a rainy day with a mug of hot chocolate." Fargo, frankly, isn't a bad comparison, including the mixed reactions, though with Fargo there was some pre-hipster peer pressure to love the Coen brothers even if you didn't get the humour….

The Manly Book Club™ was unanimous in its mild appreciation, incidentally. Our female fellow readers (wives, sisters, etc) tended not to appreciate it, but I'm not willing to call it a gender issue. So there.


Melwyk said…
I agree with you -- it was light fun, silly and dark at the same time. Good entertainment. I liked it though felt it went on just a wee bit too long.

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