The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas, a big hit in France and 36 countries worldwide, is a delightful first novel.
Our hero, Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, a notable charlatan from a remote Indian village, famous for “swallowing retractable swords, eating broken glass made from zero calorie sugar, stabbing his arms with fake needles and a heap of other conjuring tricks”, begins his adventure in Paris. His destination is IKEA and his mission is to buy the bed of nails, Hertsyörbåk model.
Armed only with a broken pair of Police sunglasses, a fake 100-Euro note and without money for a hotel room Rajasthan hides in IKEA store overnight in a blue metal wardrobe,“the signature piece of the all-new American Teenager collection,” which then gets shipped out. Ajatashatru ends up in a truck with seven Sudanese refugees being trafficked to England. Learning from the men what they have gone through to get to one of the “good countries,” he reflects: “To the police, they were illegal aliens; to the Red Cross, they were people in need. It was unsettling to live with such a duality and with constant fear in the gut.”
Ajatashatru’s European voyage around the continent is full of discoveries: he travels to Italy in a suitcase, flies to Libya in a hot air balloon and writes his first bestselling novel on his shirt. The fakir learns about immigration, friendship, and love. He slowly understands that tricking people will not lead to a fulfilling life.
Despite the whimsical title The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe is a simple novel of change. It’s witty, quirky, and lighthearted.
The novel reminded me of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson.