Tag Archives: Spain

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

Author: Romain Puértolas/Translator: Sam Taylorextraordinary-journey-of-the-fakir-who-got-trapped-in-an-ikea-wardrobe

My rating: 3 of 5

This is the story of one Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod (pronounced any number of ways, depending on who you ask), a fakir or professional con artist by trade. For years, Ajatashatru has convinced his community–even those closest to him–that he is a holy man. Now he is in the midst of his greatest con yet, convincing his followers to send him to Paris to buy a bed of nails from the IKEA store there. Things begin to go astray from his plans though as Ajatashatru 1) cons the wrong taxi driver, 2) encounters an extraordinary woman who may just be the love of his life, and 3) gets himself locked in a wardrobe on the way to England while hiding away in the IKEA overnight (to avoid paying for a hotel room). And so, this fakir begins a journey that will take him immense distances, both globally and within himself.

I found The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe after enjoying The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (to be reviewed later). This book is similar, although I think I enjoyed Jonasson’s story a bit more. Puértolas’s story is a bit more openly satirical and just generally further from what I typically read, which made it harder for me to get into. Still, I found the story amusing and interesting. It’s an intriguing journey–both in the pinball-esque trip Ajatashatru takes across Europe, Asia, and Africa and in the internal transformative journey he takes. Probably the most interesting and enjoyable part of the book for me personally was the interactions of Ajatashatru with all sorts of people, including the variety of people he encounters and the influence they have on his perceptions of the world. The biggest negative (other than that this just isn’t so much what I typically read, which isn’t the author’s fault) is that sometimes the author seems to be trying too hard, which is partly just the book’s style, but still. For those who enjoy picaresque, satirical contemporary novels, I think The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe would be an amusing and enjoyable book to try.

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Incantation

Author: Alice Hoffman

Everything in Estrella deMadrigal’s life is as it should be; her family is well respected, she has a wonderful relationship with her mother, life is comfortable, and her best friend Catalina is like a sister. It doesn’t seem anything could disturb her comfortable life until a book-burning signals the beginning of some frightening changes. Worse still, Catalina seems to delight in the burning, and somehow, things begin to be different between them. They begin to keep secrets from each other. Little could Estrella know that other secrets, ones her family has kept from her for her entire life, will change how she views herself and the world around her forever.

Incantation is the first Alice Hoffman story I’ve read, and I will absolutely be reading more in the future. This breathtaking, moving plunge into the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition is beautiful; it treats honestly a topic that is excruciating, and it draws out vital universal truths in a manner that is memorable. Hoffman’s storytelling is spare, poetic, and emotionally charged, more so than you might think possible in such a small volume. I cried while reading this, yet felt a strong sense of resolution at the end–even though the end itself is uncertain and painful. Incantation is definitely a recommended story–particularly for those interested in the Spanish Inquisition or the life of Marranos in Spain during that time–just be prepared for an emotional overload.

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