The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson My first impulse was to give this a one-star rating, and after about two seconds of thinking, I did exactly that. However, after a more careful revision and after re-reading a couple of passages from it, I decided this should get a solid two-star rating. The reason is simple: a one star rating, in my opinion, is for a book I deem incomparably stupid and written by an imbecile who can't put a couple of words together to form a decent story. I have given one star ratings before, and after looking through them, I have to admit that, in my opinion, they were totally deserved. "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared" is not that bad. I didn't find anything I particularly liked about the book, or anything that would be considered "good" in terms of fiction, but one of my criteria for giving something one star is that it has to have horrible writing. The kind filled with adverbs (Stephen King is right, you know), where there's no sentence longer than four words, where there's no development in style or even a good old fashioned bit of text that sorta-really-actually resembles another piece of writing. It wasn't like that with Jonasson's book; the writing isn't especially disgusting or in any way a horrible experience. Most of it could be turned on to the decent side, if he would just pay more attention to details. That's why, in the end, this gets two little golden shining stars.

For starters, this book is absurd. And not absurd in the fictional way, not fantasy-absurd. No. Real absurd. There's nothing plausible about this work. I know, after reading it, that it was probably meant to be absurd and that in general fiction is supposed to touch on situations that might not be real, but Jonasson went out of his way to make this one really test your patience! And, frankly, it does just that - it doesn't appeal to your imagination, rather it punches your endurance right in the face and yells at her until you finally decide you've had enough.

I won't even bother with a full synopsis, I'll just strike through what I though were really bad moments.

Apparently, Allan (the centenarian the title of the book is referring to) saved and had a fastuos dinner with general Franco, during which they came to be on first-name terms. After that, he was commanded by Roosevelt to create a bomb (hello there, nuke); he spent some time in libraries, researching in order to understand the chemical reactions that americans were using for their weapons, and he single-handedly solved the biggest problem they had: controlling a nuclear fision. Between two sessions at that most secret library, he would serve coffee at Oppenheimer's table. While being there, as a waiter, he decided to suggest to Oppenheimer to split the uranium in two equal parts and detonate the bomb before it reached the destination. At the exact same time, Vice President Truman sort of walked into the room, found out what happened and declared Allan hero of the day, asking him to join in for a bite in Washington, at his favorite Mexican restaurant. After they drank a dubious amount of tequila, Allan and Truman were, of course, best buddies. The Vice President apparently amused Allan by imitating the pathetic attempts Roosevelt made when he tried to get up from his wheelchair. Funny, really, because some minutes later, the centenarian was there to hear the first announcement of Roosevelt's death.

Does this whole scene seem plausible, in any way, to you?

While we're on the subject of world leaders that Allan had dinner with, let's not forget to include Stalin and Mao; they really entertained him with amazing dinners, with the exception of Mao, who only had noodles to offer him.

I mean, that always happens in normal life, right?

At one point, it's also suggested that he was the one who ordered the bombing of Hiroshima, on the 6th of August 1945, though by my humble opinion, the author got the bomber model wrong. He says it's a B56, but it was a Boeing B29 Superfotress; the B56 is another kind of tactical bomber.

Plus, Allan was apparently a highly intelligent man and could learn new languages in a matter of months. Originally, he was from Sweden. I understood the affinity for English, which is a simple language, for Spanish, which is not so simple but still a pretty straightforward one, but I stopped believing him at Chinese. For real, Jonasson? Also, because of how the 20th century went, I was positive he would also get to learn Russian - and I was in no way wrong. He picked it up, by his own saying, in a school named "Gulag". Nice joke, Jonasson. You're really making me laugh.

It was never funny. Not even "sarcastic-smile" funny. Not even "you-should-smile-at-this-because-the-author-tried-to-be-witty" funny. Never. Let me give you an example of what I had to sit through, page after page:

"The bad news", said Julius, and lowered his voice a little, "the bad news is that when we were well and truly pissed last night, we forgot to turn off the fan in the freezer-room."

"And?" said Allan.

"And... the guy inside must be dead cold - or cold dead - by now."

With a worried look, Allan scratched his neck while he decided whether to let the news of his carelessness spoil the day.

"Oh dear," he said. "But, on the other hand, I must say that you've got these eggs just right, not too hard and not too runny."

Yes. That is the wit this author brings to the table. Can't make much of it. I doubt many people can make much of it. It's nonsense, it's empty blabber, his dialogue is composed mostly of useless, senseless jokes that are supposed to evidentiate his character's philosophy of life.

Which is, basically: "it is what it is, therefore, what will be will be." I can't think of anything stupider than that. I'm ok with accepting what comes your way in life, but extending that philosophy to anything and everything in your path is mentally unhealthy and doesn't make for a very good fighter when life throws you something you have to struggle with.

The characters' conscience seems to have been thrown out the window, because killing people becomes just a minor deficiency of their trip and is dismissed as unimportant. They never panic - they don't even scare at the sight of human bodies and they're as comfortable when disposing of them as a 50 year old experienced Russian mercenary.

Then there comes an even more confusing part to the story - the elephant. Sonya (the elephant), seems to be an enriching element. Was it put into the story to give it depth? I don't know. But related to her was this book's funniest moment: the death of Bucket, a petty thief and a certified idiot. He threatened Allan with a gun, but then the centenarian man had the brilliant idea to make him slide and fall into one of Sonya's dumps and command the elephant to sit down... on top of the poor guy. Consequently, Bucket died, squashed by an elephant's butt.

What was this particular scandinavian smoking when he wrote this?!