‘Sweet Sweet Revenge LTD’ Author Jonas Jonasson Talks Laughter, Tears, and Making the World a Better Place – San Bernardino Sun

Jonas Jonasson’s books are just different. You can tell that just by the title of his debut novel, “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Vanished,” a book that sold millions of copies worldwide.

Or you can say from the first lines of the Swedish author’s latest comedy epic to be translated into English, ‘Sweet Sweet Revenge LTD’, which opens: “Once upon a time, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there was a moderately successful artist. His first name was Adolf, and he would eventually become famous for other reasons.

The book then shifts abruptly to the savannahs of Kenya and the streets of Stockholm, as Jonasson constructs an absurd but tightly constructed plot involving Victor, a white nationalist Swede; Jenny, the woman he marries just to cheat him out of his father’s art dealer; Kevin, the mixed-race son he didn’t know he had; Ole Mbatian the Younger, an elite Maasai warrior and healer; Hugo, an acclaimed advertising executive who finds his true calling in helping people get revenge; and the real German Expressionist painter Irma Stern.

In extremely unlikely circumstances, Jenny, Kevin, Ole and Hugo come together to form a ragtag team of heroes – think Leia, Luke, Yoda and Han Solo and you won’t be far off – to defeat the racist and misogynistic evil empire that was at the heart of Victor’s darkest dreams.

Beyond that “Star Wars” analogy, however, it’s not the Force, but Kurt Vonnegut’s influence that’s strong in this one. Jonasson tackles serious issues like free speech and art censorship, while throwing deft points at everything from the British Empire’s deep-rooted racism to America’s relationship with guns. on fire at parking problems in Stockholm. Throughout the book, the people, from Victor to the village chief of Ole Mbatian, are overwhelmingly cruel, dangerously provincial and selfish. And yet, Jonasson retains a deft comedic touch and an overriding belief in humanity.

Jonasson started out as a journalist in Sweden, then set up a media business before burning out and deciding to try his hand at fiction. Her other books include ‘The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden’ and ‘Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All’. He recently spoke about Sweden by video on art, laughter and humanity. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. When Victor tries to kill Kevin by throwing him into the Kenyan wilderness, where he will likely be quickly devoured, you write: “Anyone who has ever spent a night alone in an acacia tree in the Kenyan savannah knows how easy it is to get discouraged. .” Did you do this for research?

No, but I just came back from the Kenyan savannah. I have been there several times and I know the Maasai culture. I am friends with two Masai warriors. One of them, Isaac, visited me in Stockholm. He had been to New York, London and Stockholm and he was going back to the savannah, where there are all these wild animals and he said: “I can’t wait to be back there, where it’s is on.”

Q. How did you end up with Irma Stern playing such an important role in the book?

She blossomed late in the story, but it turned out so well that my German publisher published a book about her to accompany “Sweet Sweet Revenge.”

Early on, I called an art expert from a famous auction company in Stockholm to tell him about the possibilities of creating fake art, because that’s part of the story. We had lunch and discussed which artist would suit the story. We went back and forth but couldn’t find any. Then I went to Cape Town in South Africa, where my best friend and my godson live. It’s like a second home for me. He took me to the Irma Stern museum there and she was obviously perfect. She was in Germany in the 1930s and wanted to write about art and censorship. She also lived and painted in Africa and saw the humanity of the people there.

Q. There are a lot of simple sentences that are just funny, but there are other parts where your mind exercises a keen sense, like when you take stock of how the British viewed the people of the countries they have colonized. “Two hundred British soldiers and settlers paid with their lives. In the background, twenty thousand members of the indigenous population also perished.

It’s a fancy way of saying in one sentence what Britain has done without sounding too much like a professor. I’m always happy if you can see a serious message in the one-liner.

Q. Each of your books tackles serious issues in a humorous way – you mentioned that your second book was about “two of mankind’s dumbest inventions, apartheid and weapons of mass destruction” – think- you so that you can have an impact?

My first book looked at the failings of the entire 20th century because my ambition was to recall them so as not to repeat them. This book has sold 11 million copies. And the world is not a little better.

Q. So that’s fine. Despite all the horrible human behavior on display, your books are ultimately not only funny but upbeat. Are you actually a hopeful person or do you write this way to keep the wolves at bay?

When my dad said, “The world is shitty, it makes you want to cry. I thought to myself, “It doesn’t help to cry. It doesn’t help to laugh either, but it’s more fun.

I have good hope. I don’t think we have a choice. You have to believe that there is always hope.

I want readers to have hope, but I also recommend stepping out the window once or twice in your life. It’s not easy for everyone to do if you’re struggling in day-to-day life. So why not step out the window and read a novel instead. If someone said my book was like 11 hours of therapy, I’d be proud.

Lola R. McClure