Arguably the biggest word-of-mouth literary sensation of the decade is neither Nordic crime fiction nor vampire romance, but rather a fable about an old man stumbling through momentous events of the last century after escaping from an old people's home. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, five million copies sold and currently number six on Amazon's chart, has become everybody's commute-read with neither hype or a media campaign.
Its Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson, suggests its appeal is escapism. “In general, we all live grey lives,” he says, “and I think there is a part in all of us that would like to escape.”
Five years ago, Jonasson was a media baron whose business empire was making him ill. So he sold it for £10 million, and retired to a remote island in pursuit of a quiet life. He was 47.
And so he revived an old ambition to write. The book was turned down by several publishers before finding a home in 2009. Now the film adaptation is imminent.
'The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared' is published by Hesperus Press