April 2016 Club

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

It’s another long, quirkily titled book which are so in vogue. But Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, our protagonist, certainly does experience an extraordinary journey, firstly in an Ikea wardrobe from France to Britain, then in a Louis Vuitton trunk from Spain to Italy, following by a hot-air balloon ride from Italy to Libya. It’s pretty obvious from the start that there are farcical elements to this novel.

But the style of writing is whimsically humorous – almost Snicketesque – and challenges the reader to suspend their disbelief from the outset, when it’s revealed that Ajatashatru has tricked his Rajasthani village into giving him money to travel to Paris to buy a bed of nails. The author pokes fun at the pronounciation of “foreign” names – a direct dig at those who have no intention of embracing different cultures, and it’s interesting to imagine the challenge that this posed for the translator!

As Ajatashatru lurches across Europe, with an angry Parisian taxi driver who he conned in hot pursuit, he falls into the company of illegal immigrants – learning their stories and discovering that “their only mistake is to have been born on the wrong side of the Mediterranean”. One of the men is Assefa from Sudan who tells him the extraordinarily moving story of why he had to leave his country and his numerous attempts to seek a better life.

Although Ajatashatru is not an illegal immigrant himself, he learns how money and passports are the tickets to the promised land or the “good countries”.

Gradually, our hero realises that helping people rather than tricking them will lead to a much more enriching life. En route from Spain to Italy in the hold of the plane, Ajatashatru manages to write the opening chapters of a novel on his shirt – not unlike the author, who wrote the entire novel in the space of a month in between shifts working as a border policeman, composing on his mobile phone or even once on a shirt!

Ultimately, on the surface, the novel is about a preposterous, somewhat slapstick physical journey. But scratch below the surface and it reflects on the inner journey, fairness and luck.

I think my favourite quote from the book is “Sometimes people just have to see you a certain way, particularly if the way they see you is positive, in order to transform you into that good person”.

Colourway inspiration

For the semi-solid colourway, I had the choice of Ikea blue or yellow. Much as I adore yellow, I appreciate that it’s not everyone’s favourite colour, and opinion is very much split on this most divisive of colours, so went with a bold mid-blue. I called it Ikea Blue.

For the variegated colourway, I decided to go for a speckle dyed look to incorporate the blue and yellow of Ikea with the hot pink of the taxi driver’s daughter, Miranda-Jessica’s wedding dress and the brown of Ajatashatru’s “Coca-Cola eyes”. I called it Gipsy Kings.

The yarn base is the new singles merino called Wriggle, which seems pretty appropriate for some of Ajatashatru’s actions.