'The Accidental Further...' review: Thinking out loud

'The Accidental Further...' review: Thinking out loud

Sometimes the flavour of a book is betrayed in a protagonist’s quip. Towards the end of The Accidental Further Adventures of The Hundred-Year-Old Man, Allan Karlsson — all of 100 years and some more in age — tells German Chancellor Angela Merkel: exact geographical information isn’t exactly my speciality. I’m better at ending up wherever I am. Jonas Jonasson’s sequel to The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is propelled by just such unpredictability for fuel. It is a grand tumble down a rabbit hole; a fall sustained completely by its own dynamics. You don’t know what’s going to happen next.

This review must necessarily begin with a confession. I haven’t read the first book. But that should hardly matter for the ecosystem of the sequel is pretty much independent and wholesome. The common link, I would suspect, is the idiom of presentation.

The core imagination rests on a few pillars. First, a hundred years spent on the planet is a long, rich stretch of existence, particularly if you dig up all that one endured; the people one crossed paths with, and the events that punctuated said passage of time. Imagine further — what if the 100-year-old character in question had been ringside at important junctures in history but at the same time, shrugs it all off because the scale of a century lived is such that none of these human-authored events really matter?

You deal with a protagonist who feels like a hybrid of retired secret-service operative and hermit-vacationer (although he is said to be an old expert in nuclear energy). The sort that is typically equanimous and quiet, until you poke with a question, and out tumbles history. It’s all — been there, done that; veteran doesn’t care about any of it anymore.

Now use this protagonist for arrow and take aim at that which overwhelmingly defines contemporary life — the pursuit of stable, predictable existence. At the first motif of permanence, the arrow shatters, reins in all instincts to restore normalcy and let consequences take their natural, unfettered course. You get a roller coaster ride that makes no sense and yet thrills for the sheer abnormality and kinetic energy.

Pepper the ingredients of such narrative with real-life developments; infuse fiction into a range of characters incorporated so — from Angela Merkel to Donald Trump to Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin – you have one hell of an impossible, made-up story, which leaves you amazed at the end of it all: the author had me by the nose reading this stuff. How did he do it?

The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man must be admired for its audacity and idiom. It’s what you and I think of privately, of world affairs and the state of the world. We think of it and then swallow it for we don’t have what it takes to hold a satirical mirror to how things are. We are too stuck in comfort by the pattern to wish to dismantle it for freewheeling life.

Jonas Jonasson, on the other hand, put pen to paper and wrote it, saying it as it is. A 100-year-old man with an I-don’t-care-attitude and nothing to lose provides the perfect foil for a writer to take such position. However, the book wasn’t without its drawback.

Pardon me Allan Karlsson, but a few pages less and your story would have been neatly said, I felt. There was no let-up in the sensory load accumulating from Jonasson’s dark comedy. It is said of cats and dogs that if you pet them too much, they have to find some means to release the pent-up energy. It was so for me zipping with Karlsson from Indonesia to North Korea, USA, Scandinavia, Germany and Africa with Russia for added spice and a ton of world events to munch alongside. The mind goes into overdrive. It slowly tires and then struggles to keep pace with the 100-year-old hurtling around the globe. You need to take a break.

This book was one such experience. My heart wanted to continue tumbling headlong into the plot but my processor being of an older version had to pause for a breather. Else, the idiom would have overwhelmed. The bad thing about a sequel that captures you’re interest and leaves you curious about the prequel is that you now have to buy it.

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