The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe

Romain Puértolas, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. Knopf, $22 (176p) ISBN 978-1-84655-840-5
French author Puértolas’s first novel to be translated stateside is a farcical tale with a dark underbelly. Indian fakir Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod gets into trouble when he travels to France to buy a new bed of nails (named hertsyörbåk, in a pun) at a Parisian Ikea. Rathod decides to spend the night at the furniture store, trying out beds like Goldilocks and dining on leftover Swedish food. His idyll is soon interrupted by a group of employees; seeking refuge in a wardrobe, Rathod is bubble-wrapped and shipped out, entering not Narnia but a claustrophobic world of illegal immigrants. Puértolas delights in wordplay and gets plenty of mileage out of (mis-)pronunciations of the fakir’s name (“A-jar-of-rat-stew-oh-gosh!” morphs into “A-jackal-that-ate-you”), as well as the ridiculous lexicon of Ikea furniture. This wordplay runs alongside the stark reality of the refugees, people whose “only mistake was to have been born on the wrong side of the Mediterranean.” Grumpy border agents shunt them from one place to another, seeing only problems, not humanity, crammed into the world’s tiniest spaces. A manic yet incisive satire. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 08/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
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