Robert's Reviews > 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 Di... by Jonas Jonasson
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The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of a window, Allan, goes on a little impulsive adventure involving a suitcase belonging to a criminal gang (and full of money), several unlikely deaths in semi-self-defence, several sidekicks of advanced or post-mid-life years, and several animals.

We also find out what happened in Allan's life - a back story full of unlikely encounters, grand adventure, fame and fortune.

It is a parable, a myth, a tall tale. It has a lot in common with Forrest Gump - but our hero is not retarded, merely generally positive and pleasant and happy to assist whoever is in front of him. There are only two things he hates hearing about: politics and religion.

In many ways, this is a lovely novel It's well written, smooth, fast, entertaining, witty, funny. But at its heart is a worrying amorality, an ambivalence that is easy for teenagers to adore. If "being cool" is something aspirational, then Allan is the ultimate hero. He never gets angry or passionate about anything. He likes to drink alcohol and enjoy life in an amiable, mellow way. He's not interested in anything except food, drink, and something to occupy his time - work, generally. He achieves everything without putting in any effort and is depicted as vastly superior to everyone he encounters (though with humility).

But it just seems amoral to me: our hero cares about nothing, and yet he is supposedly great at the jobs he chooses (either manual labour or explosives expert). The story has the same kind of appreciation of effort and work as a montage in a movie: Allan becomes an explosives expert (and later, nuclear explosives expert) without any effort. He picks up dozens of languages without trying. He changes the world without trying or caring or aspiring to change the world. Meanwhile, his shrugging ambivalence about anything that requires an opinion leaves him assisting and supporting various greats and great villains. It seems pleasantly amusing, except it often feels like Allan is meant to be a kind of role model: nice to the people immediately around himself, cool and calm, bumbling yet super-effective.

The book is enjoyable to read, but there is something terrifyingly hollow about a parable which has a simple moral lesson: don't worry, be happy, don't care, don't think, don't try, and, as this makes you better than anyone else, you may still change the world and be a crucial player in history.

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Reading Progress

March 11, 2013 – Started Reading
March 11, 2013 – Shelved
March 11, 2013 –
9.0% "within the first handful of pages, the author got confused about time. First, it was an "early weekday morning", then "twelve minutes to three (pm)". Schoolboy error. Where's the editor?!?"
March 11, 2013 –
32.0% "The B-52 did not exist in 1945. Sigh. Poor attention to detail by author and editor..."
March 13, 2013 –
50.0% "Enjoying the writing and the tall tale, but also vaguely resenting it. It's a parable, it's almost a "Swedish Forrest Gump" tale, and it's a hymn to shallowness, moral bankruptcy and selfishness: likely to resonate with many young people, but unpleasant and distorted in its underlying morals."
March 15, 2013 – Finished Reading

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