The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe – Romain Puértolas
Random House Australia
Imprint: Vintage Australia
Extent: 320 pages
As you may guess by the rather unusual title, this is a rather difficult book to define except to say that it is wildly hilarious, totally improbable and a fabulous read. If you mashed up some Monty Python, some Borat and some Mel Brooks and turned them all into some kind of Marx Brothers escapade, you’d be getting close.
I’ve been reading this for the past week while supervising exams and so on at the end of the term and found it perfect for shorter periods of time – reading a chapter or two in a sitting.
To give you some idea of the crazy plot, we start with a very bogus Indian fakir arriving in Paris with a counterfeit €100 note and a borrowed suit because he wants to buy a new bed of nails – which he had seen in an Ikea catalogue back in his home village. His plan is to be in Paris for 24 hours only – just long enough to buy the bed and go home. After misguidedly hoaxing a Gypsy cab driver with his fake money, he ends up in Ikea fascinated by its offerings – which for him include a smart Parisienne woman who buys him lunch and indicates she would also love dessert – of a kind. He declines this overture –regretfully and not without some deliberation but is intent on his mission. Having no actual money he certainly can’t afford a hotel so decides to stay the night in the bedding department at Ikea. Cue ensuing chaos as the Gypsy cab driver alerts Ikea staff to the possibility of a bogus Indian in their store and Asjatashatru, the fakir, leaping into a wardrobe to evade night staff and the game is on.
The story unravels with the wily Indian being transported – one way or another all over Europe at a pace that takes his (and the reader’s) breath away. Along the way meeting friends and foes, having uncanny good fortune and some narrow escapes, the Indian finds himself examining his life, his misdeeds, his growing feelings of love for his Parisienne Marie and the ‘universal desire to seek a better life’.
A rollicking romp of laughs all the way. Suitable for senior students and adults.