Literature / The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
(Original title: Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann
) is a 2009 novel by Swedish
author Jonas Jonasson. It was adapted into a film in 2013.
Meet Allan Karlsson, soon-to-be centenary. The occasion calls for a celebratory party, with the mayor, the journalists, and all the old man's house patients and staff. But Allan has other plans...
The book alternates between two storylines: the first, or "present" one, narrates Allan's escape from the institution and theft of a suitcase
, while meeting new people and being chased by the owners of the suitcase, the criminal cartel Never Again, and by the police. The "past" storyline details the life of Allan, who meets lots of historical figures
and causes a lot of troubles
This novel provides examples of:
- Badass Grandpa: Allan certainly has his moments of this during the present storyline
- Been There, Shaped History: Allan participated in the Spanish Civil War and in the Cold War. On both sides. He also made the atomic bomb possible.
- Black Comedy
- Book Ends: The first chapter of the "present" story line is repeated word by word as the last chapter of the "past" storyline.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Allan, explosives expert.
- Cowardly Sidekick: Herbert.
- Crazy Awesome: Allan. He somehow distilled brandy from goat milk.
- Disaster Dominoes: The whole Vladivostok incident, beginning with a number of explosives going off, setting fire to a train wagon filled with wool blankets, making a lot of smoke. Then, a number of prisoners daring an escape in said smoke, while the guards aim for them and shoot, partly missing, setting off the next wagon, filled with explosives, including rockets, who manage to put a tanker in the docks ablaze, filled with petrol, who then goes adrift and collides with the pier, setting the city on fire..... and all this confusion gives Allan (and Herbert) the opportunity to get away, while the news of this incident start off the stroke that kills Joseph Stalin.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: yes, exactly.
- The Fool: Allan. Throughout his 100 years long life, Allan has avoided death and changed the course of history more times than the average person brushes his teeth... All the while never swearing, never becoming angry with anyone, never lying unnecessarily, and generally being innocent, cheerful and good-natured about all things. Just about everyone who's ever met him dismissed him as an idiot, and he was fine with that, because in the end he never wanted anything more than a glass of good alcohol, a hot meal and a nice place to sit down.
- Guile Hero: Allan, again, who despite leaving school at the age of 9, manages by sheer cleverness and likeability to accomplish such things as escaping a gulag, befriending just about every important historical figure in the 20th century, starting and ending the Cold War...
- Heel–Face Turn: Gerdin.
- Karmic Death:
- Gustavsson the wholesaler pestered Allan's mom for money, bought a Fabergé Egg from her for almost nothing and sold it to get himself a car. Unfortunately he goes off the road and into Allan's property, right when Allan was experimenting with a new explosive.
- The chief of Iran's domestic security and intelligence keeps putting out his cigarette in Allan's coffee. Allan exploits this by filling his cup with black-dyed nitroglyceryne.
- Heavily implied for Josef Stalin. Yes, that one. He has a stroke which leads to his death after discovering that Vladivostok has gone up in flames. He himself sent Allan to a gulag near that city. And yes, Allan was responsible for that disaster.
- Lady Swears-a-Lot: Gunilla.
- Loveable Rogue: many characters.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: in order:
- Allan, a Cool Old Guy who is also an explosive expert.
- Julius, a petty criminal surviving by poaching, producing brandy, and leeching from the city electric grid. Acts as The Lancer.
- Benny, The Smart Guy since he almost earns ten university degrees (due to his uncle's will, he would get a monthly allowance if he was attending school, and full access to the money once finished. His brother quickly completed a welding course, while Benny stayed on the monthly allowance, always switching his major just before graduating, until there was no more money).
- Gunilla, The Chick with her Team Pets, Buster the dog and Sonya the elephant. Also swears. A lot.
- Bosse, Benny's brother, which is a really good cook (even though he uses some tricks and claims everything he makes "Swedish" even if imported. Acts as the Token Religious Teammate since he rescued half a ton of Bibles from the recycling center and read one from start to end to understand why someone would throw away so many bibles. A verse had been appended "and they all lived happily ever after" ("Snipp snapp snut, så var sagan slut").
- "Pike" Gerdin, the boss of the "Never Again (In Jail)" gang, and the "legitimate" owner of the suitcase. Token Evil Teammate turned good by Bosse.
- Inspector Aaronsson, Token Good Teammate, inspired enough by Allan's story to quit his job and join them in Bali.
- Precision F-Strike: done by Allan and Julius when they realize what is in the suitcase.
- Shout-Out: Herbert Einstein, being the (fictional) brother of Albert Einstein, refers to the known Swedish tv comedy show with the main characters called - Albert and Herbert!
- Stuff Blowing Up: Allan again. The most notable instance is his escape from a gulag. It involved the destruction of Vladivostok.
- Team Pet: Gunilla's pets, Buster the dog and Sonya the elephant.
- Unfortunate Surname: Herbert Einstein. He was kidnapped by the USSR to work on the atomic bomb.
The 2013 film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: A lot of Allan's historical adventures have been removed. Bosse was Adapted Out.
- Easy Amnesia: Gerdin loses most of his memory after a crash. He's otherwise not really injured besides a head wound, and can stand and talk lucidly within an hour. He just doesn't remember who he is or what he's doing there, beyond the word "Bali". This actually plays to his advantage, since he is no longer a threat, and they take him along to Bali and share the spoils. Contrast his two friends who ended up dead for their trouble.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The scene with Allan escaping the retirement home. It's just an old man opening a window and feebly climbing through, but the music...
- Shaggy Dog Story: Near the end, they go the Bali, where the Big Bad - who wants them all dead - is waiting (although he obviously doesn't think they'd come there, and is trying to track them down instead). While out driving, he spots them on the road - with the money, too! - and both he and his driver are so distracted by the sight... that they drive right into an oncoming truck and die in flames. None of the protagonists ever even knew that he existed.