The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

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The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: An unusual title for an unusual fable as a fakir travels the world in an odd way, learning about himself as he goes. A mite worthy? No, more like charming fun woven with some sharp satirical observations.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 978-1846558405

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Ajastashatru Oghash Rathod is an Indian fakir or an Indian conman, depending on your viewpoint. The day he decides to buy a new bed of nails he does what any of us would do: jumps on a plane from the Indian sub-continent to Paris with some misappropriated money in order to shop at Ikea. His nefarious means will only go so far, therefore he decides to sleep in the store overnight. What’s the problem? Ikea has bedrooms and everything. However, Ikea also has security which is how Ajatashatru gets to travel around Europe in a less than conventional way chased by a homicidal taxi driver. That's the sort of thing that could happen to anyone though, isn't it?

To say that French/Spanish author Romain Puertolas is a polymath is a bit of an understatement. He's worked as a singer, a DJ, composer and a language teacher among other things. He's also travelled extensively and spent some time as a French border guard which are the two important scraps of information here. Why? As the chap who has also written seven novels and hundreds of stories will tell you, nothing is for nothing. Indeed, these are the experiences that came in handy when the great fakir (and faker) Ajastashatru Oghash Rathod was created.

The fakir (for short!) is a great chap. We first meet him as a brash, selfish conman able to get away with anything. Now, whether we're all comfy with this depends on what you want from a novel and your ability to suspend disbelief.

For instance are you willing to accept anyone can fool hardened taxi drivers with fake currency on near-invisible elastic? I really hope you can as, if we discount it as unreadably daft we miss out on a lot; this novel's about feeling the emotion, wit and thought-provoking satire that bubbles through the narration.

I must admit it starts off a little shakily though. To begin with the way in which Romain plays with the pronunciation of the fakir's name made me shift in my seat slightly. In places it seems to veer more towards xenophobia than witty teasing. However, it doesn't last for long and, once the charm and quirk kicked in, I was sold.

The charm starts with the people. Romain populates his tale with some picturesques. Gustave the passionately annoyable gypsy taxi driver becomes the fakir's nemesis via some deliciously funny coincidences. When it comes to Gustave's wife and daughter, they deserve him as much as he deserves them. (That's all I'm saying about them!)

Our traveller also gets to meet a film star while Romain gently pokes fun at the world of celebrity and, as we'd expect, he gets some Ikea digs in too. However it's not all played for laughs.

This is an author who uses his professional insight regarding the world of the illegal immigrant once the fakir journeys with those whose trips are a lot more serious than his mishaps of happenstance. The comical inadequacies of the British repatriation system are demonstrated but this time the comedy is enshrined in a law dealing with vulnerable people rather than a writer's imagination.

If the best fables are simply told, the fakir- Ikea- wardrobe book (for short!) rates among the best. If you are a little worried about turning off disbelief, Aesop hasn't done too badly for himself in the genre and he relied on talking animals! This gentle, humorous story of a man who sees his own mistaken life choices through the lives of others is a journey in more ways than one and definitely a trip I'll be making again.

(Thank you to Harvill Secker for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If modern day fables appeals, we just as heartily recommend Harvest by Jim Crace

Buy The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas at Amazon.com.

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