When you read writer forums discussing the challenges and hurdles that need to be overcome to become a published author, publishers are always said to be looking for the next big thing, a unique voice, a unique story. The approach that Romain Puertolas has applied, which is not too dissimilar to Jonas Jonasson’s in The Girl Who Killed The Kind Sweden, is refreshing, light and rather amusing. The book (like Jonasson’s) relies heavily on convenient, and largely unbelievable, circumstances and is absurdly funny.
The main character is an Indian Fakir – a holy man, a magician, a man with immense power. In fact, this Fakir, 38-year old Ajatashatru, is really a jolly good conman. For some undisclosed reason, Aja has managed to convince his village to pay for him to travel to Paris to buy an IKEA bed of nails. Think about that for a moment – a flat back bed with 15,000 nails that have to be individually assembled. The name of this product – Hertsyöbåk, and all he has to pay for it is a counterfeit €100 that is printed on one side only. The rather obvious humour falls just on the acceptable side of funny, any further over and it would have been grown out loud rather than laugh out loud.
Our Fakir ends up running for his life from a Gypsy taxi driver he swindles in Paris; and meeting him again in Barcelona where he is forced to hide in a trunk; and, finally, from him in the latter pages of the book. In between, he meets a group of African illegal immigrants; a French movie star; a Libyan sea captain, and the woman who will become the love of his life.
How does this poor, yet clever man, make this extraordinary journey? Well, as suggested it does all start in an IKEA wardrobe. It’s a romp across Europe, the characters are a bit stereotypical, and the main one is charming and lovable. It’s a light and enjoyable read and I’m not surprised this French author has found worldwide success with his first book. It’s a fun, pacey, and easy read.