Monday, March 7, 2011

Book review: Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann av Jonas Jonasson

One more book review of a Swedish book in Swedish on this blog, but this one it on its way to be translated into English and a multitude of other languages.  It was a long time ago I read such a hilarious book.  It helps that the long beginning takes place in a small village not far from where I grew up, and that the author successfully makes fun of Swedish society, world history, politicians and incompetent bureaucrats, and puts together an obviously too-incredible story, but it is fun!  Just like crazy movies like Young Frankenstein is fun.  It is not because the story is believable, but because the book (or movie) creates laugh-out-loud moments in your life. 

In Swedish this book by Jonas Jonasson is called 'Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann', which means The 100-year old who stepped out the window and disappeared. It will be made into a Swedish movie in 2012.  Jonas Jonasson is a former Swedish journalist who had the first draft of this book in his drawer for over 20 years or so.  The story seems simple, but it is not.  An old man turns 100 (named Allan) and decides to escape before his birthday party at the old-people home, and steps out the window.  And then the story starts, which includes murders, elephants, police, journalists, mafia, drug dealers, akvavit, swedish summer, swedish women, and much more... all written in a hilarious Swedish based on 1940-1950s intricate and sometimes stilted grammar with words of today thrown in. Throughout the book the 100-year old reminisces about his colorful life, where he has traveled the world, and in fact, helped (or not) world history personalities such as Franco, Roosevelt, Mao, Einstein's brother, Stalin, and he visits and deals with the associated gulag camps, atom bomb makings, secret submarines, and Iranian revolutions.  The book gives a great work-through of 20th century history, but of course it is all wrong because Allan is inserted in it.  But hilarious! I won't tell you the ending of the story, but it is good to the end.

I loved this book.  Apparently many (snobbish?) book critics in Sweden didn't like it at all, and thought it was silly, overwrought, or just plain dumb.  Well, dumb, that is Danielle Steele.  Overwrought, sure, but that is the point!  Just like a Mel Brooks movie, get it!?  Remember Springtime for Hitler - just the same thing, but this is nearly better, I think.  Silly - come on, good culture can be FUN. One critic complained that the book wasn't believable (hello, it wasn't meant to be!). This is pure entertainment, not serious literature... I am keeping this book so I can read it again next time I get the flu and have to lay in bed for a day or two. It will make me laugh many times again.  (And thanks to BOS for sending it to me!)

So, English-speaking readers, keep your eyes open and get it when it comes out in your country in the translated form.

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