Yup! That’s how I’d describe this book. It has a very, very peculiar sense of humour.
Allan Karlson, a 100 year old Swedish man, flees an old age home and impulsively steals a suitcase that’s stashed with millions of dollars. While the police and a criminal gang trail him, we get to know through a series of flashbacks his illustrious past and the role he has played in shaping 20th century politics.
Allan’s requirements are very simple. As long as he gets vodka at regular intervals, and he doesn’t hear anyone talk politics, he can lead a peaceful life.
The way he makes decisions are also very simple. For instance, he’s serving imprisonment at Vladivostok for over 5 years and suddenly one day he feels he can’t do without vodka. But, there’s no way he can get vodka within the prison. Which then meant he had to escape. Simple.
That’s the tone throughout the novel. And I liked that tone. Perhaps it was this simplistic way of thinking that helped Allan live for a hundred years.
We often complicate life and the decisions we need to make. For a straightforward question that can be answered with a simple yes or no, we create loops and get entwined by the cords of maybe and if only.
I did feel the portions set in the present were a bit draggy and boring. Once Karlson is on the run, the author brings a motley bunch of characters plus an elephant and makes all of them go on the run. This felt contrived to be wacky. There were several times when I wanted to jump to his past because I found those portions more exciting. The author brings real characters like Stalin, Mao Tse Tung andChurchill and it’s even more fun if you’ve read about their lives beforehand. I’d love to learn history this way! I’d have loved history exams that would encourage us to write such fiction and test us on our abilities to make a cocktail of reality and fiction, rather than remembering dates.
I’m keen to watch the movie now.