I Hate Coriander

Jonas Jonasson, translated by Rod Bradbury
Hesperus Press
First Published 2012

Are you ready for a segue? I love them, you do too, here it comes.

I hate coriander, or perhaps you call it cilantro. Its name is irrelevant to me. It is the demon herb from hell. By all means eat it, enjoy it if you will, but keep its foul smelling, putrid tasting, hideous sorcery away from me. And don’t talk to me about how much you love it – I don’t care. You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion on the matter but I don’t care to hear it. My reasons are: a. I don’t care, b. you’re wrong, c. I don’t care.

In this attitude, I feel Allan Karlsson (the one hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared) and I have something in common when it comes to things we really don’t want to get involved in or hear about. For me it is coriander, for Allan it is politics. However, just as the demon herb constantly invades my personal space despite my best efforts to avoid it, so too does Allan Karlsson become embroiled in some of the world’s greatest political events of the 20th century.

The story of Allan’s extraordinary life is woven between the events of his present adventure until finally the timelines meet. Having decided to skip out on his hundredth birthday, Allan climbs out of his nursing home window and buggers off in his slippers. From there the madness begins with a mysterious suitcase, incompetent gang members, an ex-thief, a hot-dog van man, a redheaded beauty, a bus and an elephant. Then the madness begins again from Allan’s birth with his father going off to help depose Czar Nicholas II and writing home about new friends like Uncle Carl with the name that doesn’t sound very Russian.

We travel with Allan across the time and space of the 20th century as he bobs along on the current of social change, happenstance and vodka. From the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Korean War (to name a few events he unwillingly finds himself in the middle of) Allan becomes friendly with the likes of Harry S. Truman, Mao Tse Tung (via his wife) and General Franco. Turns out Stalin has a decent singing voice, though things turn sour when it becomes apparent he isn’t a big fan of Swedish poets who are lauded by Hitler.

If none of this teasing has tempted you into cracking this cracking tale open then I don’t know what I can do for you. If however I have persuaded you, sing Helan går. Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej. Knock back a glass or two of good Swedish vodka, and sit ye down to a rollicking good tale. And I do not use the word rollicking willy nilly.



About Jamie Ashbird

Jamie Ashbird was born from an egg on a mountain top. At least that's what she keeps telling people. In fact she was born, quite boringly, from a uterus and was raised in Melbourne. It is here, in her native habitat, that she roams about watching the world go by and quietly judging people. She is also a writer... ahem, apologies, typo... she is almost a writer but wastes too much of her time watching other people play video games on YouTube.
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