A really lovely thing has happened since starting book-plate: friends have been talking to me about what they’ve been reading. It is one of the main reasons I started this blog – to share what I’ve been reading and hope that others would reciprocate. So this most recent read – The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – is brought to you by my very good friend Lexi, who also gave me the recipe that featured with Dirt. Proof that Lexi is one of the best kinds of friends: warm, generous, and fun as well as a good eater and reader. This book was her suggestion when I needed a lighter, kinder break after reading Dirt and White Girls and it fit the bill perfectly.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a lovely and heartfelt story of an elderly Swede who, on his one-hundredth birthday, decides he has had enough of the fuss his retirement home is making of his big day. One hour before the party is scheduled to commence, Allan climbs out of his bedroom window and disappears. While waiting for a bus to start his unplanned journey, he accidentally-on-purpose steals a suitcase containing 50 million krona, and so the adventure begins.
Allan has a way of playing a role in most world events over the last one hundred years in one-way or another. But this is no history lesson or cultural critique: Allan’s naivety to what happens around all this activity sees him roll with the punches and make the most of situations, rather than be dragged into the drama. The story is incredibly reminiscent of Forrest Gump in that it is quite a cinematic story - you can imagine it as a road movie and buddy movie in one - charismatic and accessible. In this interview with the Telegraph in the UK, author Jonas Jonasson said of the novel: “I feel I have produced a hopeful satire on the shortcomings of mankind”. Though Allan sees and plays a role in a number of wars, meets and works for a string of autocratic leaders, and makes his living from being an expert in explosives, he is not one to judge lightly. He simply makes the best use of his skills to keep himself comfortable and to ensure the good guy always comes first.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a light but engaging read. It is the kind of novel that doesn't stretch your brain too much, but it does keep you turning the page with a smile on your face. It would be perfect as a lazy beach read or for a long flight. I read it while getting over a cold - putting it down to make another cup of tea or to nap on the couch, only to wake up and pick it straight back up again.
The meal here is a favourite weeknight dinner in our house. It’s the kind of meal I’ll cook when I haven’t been home for dinner for awhile, or if I’m trying to be kind to myself and eat healthily, or if I’m just craving comfort food. The ginger miso chicken element comes from Donna Hay’s The Instant Cook (the same source as the quick flat roasted chicken I cooked with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Again, the recipe is not available online but is incredibly easy: 2 tablespoons of miso paste, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger make the marinate for 4-6 chicken thighs. I cook these in a griddle pan and serve with brown rice that’s sprinkled with Japanese rice seasoning, and steamed green vegetables mixed with a little more sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. It makes for a light, healthy and nourishing weeknight dinner, surely the perfect accompaniment to The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.
Since The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared was released in Sweden in 2009 it has been translated into 35 languages and sold over three million copies (according to the same Telegraph interview quoted earlier). Whilst many classic novels we know in the English speaking world are translations – Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, The Three Muscateers – I think its fair to say that we could all be expanding our horizons and read from further afield. I recently came across this list from Flavorwire of 50 Works of Fiction in Translation that Every English Speaker Should Read. There are a few in particular I’d like to check out here: Touch by Adania Shibli, Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou and Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin.