The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for failure to seize the day


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Ailment: Seize the day, Failure to

Cure: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

If you tend to be more of a passenger than a pilot in life, you'll need a lesson in taking control. After all, you don't want to wake up in your dotage having done nothing but watch others grab the goodies, your own dreams melting as they realise theirs.

Your instructor is the geriatric hero of this energetic romp of a novel by Swedish writer Jonas Jonasson. Not only does he climb out the window and disappear from Malmköping Old People's home just when he's about to celebrate his 100th birthday, but he goes on to have a series of adventures befitting someone who has been at the epicentre of many of the key events of the 20th century.

Because it turns out that Allan was present when the atom bomb was created, and had a hand in its mechanics, albeit unwittingly. He also met Stalin, Richard Nixon and Mao Tse-tung, all at crucial moments of strategy-making; he influenced these world leaders, more by accident than design – good food and wine are his major motivations – and his skills as a gunpowder expert frequently come in handy. Allan crossed the Himalayas, travelled in a submarine and saved Winston Churchill from assassination.

Blithe, and undeniably lucky, Allan almost immediately lands a suitcase full of money after exiting the old people's home in his slippers, which then aids him on his picaresque journey through a fiendishly complex plot involving an elephant named Sonia, several murders and detonations, and some most intriguing travelling companions.

As you accompany this eternal optimist towards a new beginning in Bali with a younger woman (85) at his side, allow this good-hearted character to explode your hesitation. Take away the following edict: if you find yourself asking "Should I?" always answer "Yes".