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About the book
  • Published: 1 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143793663
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

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

For readers of The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, a funny, charming, feel-good story about a fake fakir from India who arrives in France to shop at IKEA and unwittingly embarks on a European tour like no other.

Now a major motion picture featuring Berenice Bejo, Dhanush, Erin Moriarty and Barkhad Abdi, in cinemas across Australia 23 November.

One day a fakir leaves his small village in India and lands in Paris. A professional con artist, the fakir is on a pilgrimage to IKEA, where he intends to obtain an object he covets above all others: a brand new bed of nails. Without adequate Euros in the pockets of his silk trousers, the fakir is all the same confident that his counterfeit 100-Euro note (printed on one side only) and his usual bag of tricks will suffice. But when a swindled cab driver seeks his murderous revenge, the fakir accidentally embarks on a European tour, fatefully beginning in a wardrobe of the iconic Swedish retailer.

As his journey progresses in the most unpredictable of ways, the fakir finds unlikely friends in even unlikelier places. To his surprise the stirrings of love well up in the heart of our hero, even as his adventures lead to profound and moving questions of the perils of emigration and the universal desire to seek a better life in an often dangerous world.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Was Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe is a hilarious tale that evokes the manic energy of a Marx Brothers romp witha dose of incisive social commentary. Take an unforgettable tour of Europe propelled by laughter, love and redemption.

  • Pub date: 1 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143793663
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Romain Puertolas

ROMAIN PUÉRTOLAS was born 39 years ago in Montpellier. He wrote The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe on his mobile phone whilst working as a French border guard. Romain has previously worked as a cleaner at the Brighton Palace Pier, where he learnt how to say ‘Don’t lean on the slot machine’ without a French accent. This is his first novel.

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

“Strewn with laugh-out-loud jokes and furnished with a biblical moral at the end, Puértolas’s lightweight tale, excellently translated, is close kin to those of Jules Verne. But Ajatashatru is no Phileas Fogg, nor does he share Fogg’s universe. His world is ours: postcolonial, rife with the economic inequities left in the wake of empire and with the desperate “illegal” human beings they have created.”

Nancy Kline, The New York Times

“PICK OF THE WEEK. So does Romain Puertolas' new novel, apart from making a sterling addition to my List of Very Annoying Book Titles, have anything else to recommend it? That will depend, i suspect, on your sense of humour. You may deduce the story from the title: a Rajasthani beggar - part street magician, party holy man - flies to Paris and orders a cab to take him straight to Ikea, where he seeks to purchase a bed of nails. The ensuing caper involves mishaps over modular furniture, enraged taxi drivers, a madcap dash across Europe, and a relentless clash of culutral clowning. The author's arch whimsy won't be everyone's cup of tea, but you'll find yourself giggling eventually.”

Cameron Woodhead, The Sydney Morning Herald

“Good, clean fun. The tale of the dodgy fakir's accidental European tour meanders through charming stories within stories.”

Anna Brain, Herald Sun

“French author Puértolas’s first novel to be translated stateside is a farcical tale with a dark underbelly. (…) 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. ”

Publishers Weekly

“A philosophical odyssey. By turns slapstick and serious. His writing exudes optimism rather than world-weary ennui.”

Brenda Cronin, The Wall Street Journal

“This novel has been a bestseller in France, and it's a great romp that's cleverly written with stories within a story. If there's a moral in the novel it must be this: don't hide in a wardrobe when you're buying a bed of nails.”

Jennifer Somerville, Good Reading

“Ostensibly a feel good comedy, this novel deals with the serious subjects of globalisation and refugees risking death for a better life.”

Ben Anderson, West Australian, Perth

“An absolutely hilarious romp, like a farce but instead of walking in and out of rooms the main character does the same with wardrobes. A fakir is on a journey to pick up a bed of nails from IKEA but ends up on a tour to many countries. However it wasn't until I had finished that I realised the more serious side of the story as the Fakir meets many people seeking a better life but instead were shunted from country to country. Extremely entertaining but with an edge.”

Chris, Boomerang Books

“Romain Puértolas’ prose is playful and vivid. Making use of humor in all its forms . . . the story is good fun to read. . . . As silly as it seems on the surface, there are darker underlying themes here. . . . Puértolas’ experience working in border security is shown in the empathetic way he writes of human trafficking, with some of these stories being truly shocking. Puértolas manages to sew together the seriousness of this subject matter to his lighthearted story without undermining its significance. A story about self-discovery and having faith in humanity, this is a great read of comic relief, with enough depth to keep it interesting.”

Readings Monthly

“This novel is a hilarious tale that evokes the manic energy of a Marx Brothers romp with a dose of incisive social commentary.”

Daily Examiner, Grafton

“If you believe in zen and the art of flat pack furniture, this is the book for you.”

Sunday Express

“A genuinely funny novel.”

Vogue (UK)

“The book is as heartfelt as it is original.”


“What an extraordinary journey indeed! Unlike Jules Vernes’ ‘Around the world in 80 days’, this depicts a contemporary world and all its heart-breaking realities and frustrations. Wrapped around endless play-on-words and humoristic style, Romain Puertolas addresses a very serious and poignant subject: illegal immigration. A look at what drives these desperate people to such extreme measures and to what gain… Aja is one of the lucky one, despite a sickening childhood and upbringing (or lack thereof), he grows from the experience, turns his life around, and gets a second chance at life! Sadly, he is one of the very few… Fantastic book, funny and so serious at the same time. I recommended it to all my family and friends.”

Christine Malet

“A mad-hatter story, deeper than it looks. Romain Puértolas, nigh on 40, from Montpellier, has been around a lot and tried his hand at just about every job: DJ, composer, teacher, steward and circus magician. But never Fakir, though he has what it takes: imagination, the gift of the gab, a sense of humour, fitness and great empathy for his fellow humans. The same cannot be said – at least not at the beginning, for he gradually mends his ways as he encounters misfortune and opens his heart - of his hero, Ajatashatru Lavash Patel, an Indian Hindu fakir from Rajasthan. So, Patel is a swindler, who manages to con his fellow citizens into paying him an express trip to Paris. His aim is to bring back from Ikea, - a chain of stores that is to open up in India one day, but not quite yet – a brand-new, high-performance bed of nails! His only stipend is a forged 100 euro note. Ripped off by Gustave Palourde, a Gypsy taxi driver who drives him to the Paris suburb of Evry, our rogue hero discovers a paradise so comfortable he decides to spend the night there. Disturbed by a night round, he hides in a wardrobe, which is shipped off to England. It’s the start of a long series of thrills and spills, each more farcical than the next, in Great Britain, Barcelona, Rome, Tripoli, with a return to Paris for an unexpected happy end. Meantime, Patel, chased by the vindictive Gypsy and his family, who have a hairdresser cousin in Rome, meets Marie Rivière, a sweet French woman, who is not indifferent to his charms, Wiraj the Sudanese guy and his five companions in misfortune, illegal immigrants scattered throughout the European sieve, Sophie Morceaux, his fairy godmother, who introduces him to Gérard François, the boss of the Grabuge publishing house, who offers Patel 100,000 Euros for him to write an account of his adventures. It’s at this point we remember we are immersed in a world of make-believe, but we hope for Romain Puértolas, who set himself up as the Fakir’s mouthpiece, that his publisher has been just as munificent. One thing’s for sure: his novel is a gem of deadpan humour, a wacky road trip, as well as an invitation to tolerance and openness towards others, a sort of fairytale parable in which everyone, in fine, turns out to be nice. Even Gustave Palourde.”

Jean-Claude Perrier, Livres Hebdo

“For his first novel, Romain Puértolas has written a totally nutty story. The title, this season's longest, sets the tone.”

Pierre Maury, Le Soir (Belgium)

“I fell in love with an absolutely fantastic book. It's great and it's a first novel. It's wonderfully funny, brash, brimming with ideas. It's brilliant.”

Michel Crépu

“For his first literary feat, Romain Puértolas tackles the burlesque genre with brio, and delivers, in the form of a far-out tale, this season’s first (only?) knee-slapper. God, it feels good!”

Michel Genson, Le Républicain Lorrain

“This brilliant first novel that foreign publishers are snapping for incredible amounts of money delivers a contemporary, off-the-wall version of Candide. It’s a fable, a farce, but also and above all, a delicious satire of the modern world, that we’ll have to read while cautiously holding our sides!”

Nicolas Ungemuth, Figaro magazine

“A funny but far from stupid novel is to be cherished. We could say, “it’s the story of a fakir who…,” but the title already tells us that, and promises a chain of burlesque events that Monty Python would have loved. So it comes as no surprise that this playful, off-the-wall début novel is already being translated in 30 countries.”


“A burlesque, nonsensical story which works like clockwork. It’s funny and lively, with loads of twists and turns, and we are left asking for more! The author has us travelling all over the world and uses the story as a pretext to talk about the refugees’ situation. A lovely surprise.”


“Mr Puértolas’s first novel is as rich in twists and turns as is the art of mounting the Swedish giant’s furniture, mentioned in the book title, while addressing in a hilarious way ugly but crucial socio-political issues. (…) At a time when we have a questionable migration policy, which cause minorities and the needy to endure undue hardship, the main theme of this highly successful first novel is a true reflection, beneath its slightly disillusioned fairy-tale exterior, on human and international relations in a context of economic crisis. No more, no less. (…) Whatever, we are mainly won over by the book’s crazy, luxuriant angle, for Puértolas the word-maker has more than one trick up his sleeve, and enough panache to stand out from the mass as soon as he entered the French literary foray. Now it’s our turn to be predictable: an author worth watching, obviously.”

Jean-François Lahorgue, Benzinemag

“It’s the first novel everyone is talking about, the rights of which have already been bought by thirty countries, that will likely be the surprising and legitimate success of this literary season! At last, a hilarious book when the atmosphere is so gloomy! At last, a novel we can give knowing it is a perfect illustration of the old adage: “The joy of giving, the pleasure of receiving”. (…) The main merit of the hair-brained but edifying trials and tribulations of an Indian in the Schengen countries is the extremely funny way they are told. The plays on words are of unabashed bad taste and clangourous provocations. All the countries, all the communities get hauled over the coals. It’s a Groland version of Voltaire. Impossible not to laugh at every line (contemporary literature had led us astray).”

Jérôme Garcin, La Provence

“On one level, this is a standard picaresque tale of a con man living by his wits, but beneath the humour and farce is a more profound examination of poverty and immigration, of traffickers and the lengths desperate people will go to for a better life. Moved by the characters he meets, Ajatashatru vows to change his ways and make amends, but will he?”

Catherine Small, The Guardian (UK)

“Strewn with laugh-out-loud jokes and furnished with a biblical moral at the end, Puértolas’s lightweight tale, excellently translated, is close kin to those of Jules Verne. But Ajatashatru is no Phileas Fogg, nor does he share Fogg’s universe. His world is ours: postcolonial, rife with the economic inequities left in the wake of empire and with the desperate “illegal” human beings they have created.”

Nancy Kline, Sunday New York Times Books Review

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