‘Sweet Sweet Revenge LTD’ author Jonas Jonasson talks laughter, tears and making the world better – San Bernardino Sun

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

Or you can tell from the first lines of the latest comedic epic from the Swedish author to be translated into English, “Sweet Sweet Revenge LTD,” which opens thusly: “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 savannas of Kenya and the streets of Stockholm, as Jonasson builds an absurdist but tightly constructed plot involving Victor, a White nationalist Swede; Jenny, the woman he marries just to swindle her out of her father’s art dealership; Kevin, the biracial son he never knew he had; Ole Mbatian the Younger, an elite Maasai warrior and medicine man; Hugo, acclaimed ad executive who finds his true calling helping people get revenge; and the real life German expressionist painter Irma Stern.

Through some wildly improbable circumstances, Jenny, Kevin, Ole and Hugo all come together to form a ragtag crew of heroes — think Leia, Luke, Yoda and Han Solo and you won’t be far off — out to take down the racist and misogynist evil empire that lay at the heart of Victor’s darkest dreams.

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

Jonasson started off as a journalist in Sweden then built a media company before burning out and deciding to try his hand at fiction. His other books include “The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden” and “Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All.” He spoke recently from Sweden by video about art, laughter and humanity. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. When Victor tries killing Kevin by dumping him in the wilds of Kenya, where he will presumably be quickly eaten, you write, “Anyone who has ever spent a night alone in an acacia on the Kenyan savanna knows that it’s easy to become discouraged.” Did you do that for research?

No, but I’ve just come back from the Kenyan savanna. I’ve been there many times and know the Maasai culture. I’m friends with a couple of Masai warriors. One of them, Isaac, visited me in Stockholm. He had been to New York and London and Stockholm and he was heading back to the savanna, where there are all these wild animals and he said, “I can’t wait to be back there, where it’s safe.”

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