The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe: A novel by Romain Puértolas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One day a fakir leaves his small village in India and lands in Paris. A professional con artist, the fakir is on a pilgrimage to IKEA, where he intends to obtain an object he covets above all others: a brand new bed of nails. Without adequate Euros in the pockets of his silk trousers, the fakir is all the same confident that his counterfeit 100-Euro note (printed on one side only) and his usual bag of tricks will suffice. But when a swindled cab driver seeks his murderous revenge, the fakir accidentally embarks on a European tour, fatefully beginning in the wardrobe of the iconic Swedish retailer.
As his journey progresses in the most unpredictable of ways, the fakir finds unlikely friends in even unlikelier places. To his surprise - and to a Bollywood beat - the stirrings of love well up in the heart of our unlikely hero, even as his adventures lead to profound and moving questions of the perils of emigration and the universal desire to seek a better life in an often dangerous world.
Intriguing title and good front cover would have made me pick this up in a book shop however having been sent this from Harvill Secker as a proof to review I didn't have to buy it but after having read it I would have happily done so.
Written I guess in the same vein as the Hundred Year Old Man et al the author takes the reader on an incredibly silly and unlikely tale about a Fakir who having conned his village into raising enough funds for a ticket to Paris to buy a bed of nails from IKEA manages to get himself into all sorts of bother. He starts his journey by conning a Parisian taxi driver out of his fare to IKEA and once inside having requested the bed he wants he is told that it is not in stock but can be ordered for collection the next day. Not anticipating that he would have to spend the night in Paris he has no where to stay and decides to sleep in the store when it shuts. He successfully manages this but becomes trapped in a wardrobe that is being shipped out to Britain and thus his journey begins travelling from Britain to Spain, Italy, Libya and finally back to France. He meets all manner of characters along the way and his journey from country to country is as unplanned as his first journey to Britain.
A very unlikely tale but so funny that I became hooked and wanted to find out what happened to him next; each of his adventures are just as silly as the first, the main character Ajatashatru Oghash (pronounced A-jar-of-rat-stew-oh-gosh) was so endearing it was impossible not to like him. I loved the author giving pronunciations after each new long name he introduces to the reader - good comic touches.
There was an undercurrent in the book; although seemingly silly and lighthearted he crosses paths with some illegal immigrants and gives moving descriptions of the hardships they face and why they are so driven to get a new life in the 'good countries'. The author touches on human traffickers, hardship and immigration systems with a particularly derisive attack on the British and Italian immigration systems. Despite the feeling of being slightly manipulated to the authors way of thinking this serious element to the book for me added a new dimension making this seemingly silly and ridiculous tale far more poignant.
A very quick and easy read - the book took me just a day and a half from start to finish; it was entertaining, very funny in parts, completely bonkers in others but a great all round read. I would easily recommend this and happily give it 4.5 stars.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review.