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This book needs no review – The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-old Man, by Jonas Jonasson

The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man: A Novel, by Jonas Jonasson, translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles (Paperback; publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; Aug. 7, 2018; 448 pages)

I have never written an easier review of a novel, than this one. Why? Because it does not need reviewing or discussion. All you need to know about this novel is explained by the author in the Foreword. (Which is not to say you can’t differ from his view of it.) Jonas Jonasson, the Swedish author who has had a string of hit novels with long titles, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared; The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, and Hitman Anders and the Meaning Of It All, is now so famous that he can pretty much write whatever he feels like. So he wrote this novel because he was cheesed off with the recent state of the world. He explains this in the Foreword and the book turned out to be exactly like that.

Like many novels that have easy-reading appeal, The Hundred-Year-Old Man... was made into a film that was released in 2013 – and with that, international success came to him after a long career as a journalist and media consultant. And, as he writes in the Foreword of The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man, he had not expected it to be as big a success as it was.

Jonas Jonasson with cat and chicks – a picture of enviable domesticity on Gotland Island. Jonasson sold his media company for £10 million and now lives in peace in the countryside with his son, cat and chickens. (Photo: Geoff Pugh, in Jonas Jonasson: My 100-year-old hero, and the secret of happiness, by Angela Levin, The Telegraph, July 09, 2012, rtrvd. 2018-10-28)

Some authors’ novels are written about in a serious way, dissected, analyzed, scrutinized and theorized over. This one will not be, simply because the author wrote in the Foreword that he is Jonas Jonasson and he wants to explain himself, and does, and the novel is the result.

“There was never meant to be a sequel to the story of the hundred-year-old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared. Many people wanted one, not least the protagonist, Allan Karlsson, who kept strolling around inside my head and calling attention to himself whenever he wished.”

Jonasson said everything he had wanted to say about “what was perhaps the most miserable century ever”, in the previous novel about “Allan Karlsson” and had no wish to say more. As fables go, the first Allan Karlsson adventure was straightforward in its structure, characterization and plot and certainly no mystery. However, after its publication Jonasson became concerned about the direction that humanity was moving in.

“Event after event filled me with the sense that the world was more incomplete than ever. All the while, I was just an onlooker.”

(Above: Images from the 2013 film – Allan Karlsson escaping the old age home and getting up to no good.)

Allan Karlsson won out and Jonasson wrote this book. In the forward he warns readers that “This is a novel about recent and present events”, that in the book he makes fun of world leaders, much like a cat would look at a king, and that they should just “deal with it”. I think that a certain president affectionately called “Volodya”, and a certain German chancellor, would both be flattered by their portrayal as sharp-as-knives tacticians.

To tempt you to read it, here’s a video of some elements…

The novel is Jonasson’s way of exorcising his troubled thoughts about the way the world is going. It is just that. It is not a literary work of art. It’s not deep, nor complicated. He makes fun of the plotting, egos and political chess games that world leaders play. The characters, such as they are, are tools to get his own take on world events – world leaders, mass shootings, crime and corruption – across.

Is it any good, though?

It may be simple and a bit superficial, but it is still very humorous, so much so that it often got a loud chuckle out of me. This passage is particularly quotable – Jonasson is very good at clever punch-lines or closing lines;

“Lions think logically, and always in the same way. […] If, for example, an open-cab car full of safari-loving humans arrives, the lion sees the totality, not each individual potential meal. And it thinks three things: (1) Can I eat this? (No,  it’s too big.); (2) Can it eat me? (No, a long life has taught me that utility vehicles and trucks never attack.) (3) Can I mate with it? (No, I don’t think I’ll ever be that kinky.)
But when someone leaves the safety of their elephant-sized vehicle, the lion gets very different answers to its questions. (1) Can I eat this? (Yes, and it will be delicious!) (2) Can it eat me? (No, how would that work?) And (3) Can I mate with it? (No, I don’t think I’ll ever be that kinky.) (p. 392)

All I was wondering at the time, was how unlikely it is that Allan Karlsson, who is now 101, would be so lively with such a sharp mind. Most people of that age suffer from extreme Weltschmerz and ennui and would be wishing for death. But while he sleeps a lot and sits around on couches and in a coffin, and seems to be careless to the point of irritation, he is still sharp enough to outwit others, sometimes through them mistaking him for a friendly, doddering old fool.

Thanks to the Foreword, at least I did not break my brain or waste time trying to find some deeper meaning in the novel. Recommended? Oh yes, certainly. Just don’t go analyzing it in depth.

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