Ajatashatru is a conman who gets stuck in some furniture, ends up accidentally travelling the world, finding love on the way while changing his life and getting a book contract. Romain Puertolas, author of The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe, has an engaging, cavalier approach to reality: Ikea has never, to my knowledge, advertised a bed of nails in its doorstop glossy brochures, although its marketing department may consider it a goer now. And Sophie Morceau – a beautiful French actress with a striking resemblance to the beautiful French actress Sophie Marceau – appears in the story in Rome, where the fakir appears in her Vuitton luggage. The author likes games. A footnote reads: ‘In the interests of the reader’s understanding, we will polish up Marie’s pidgin English during future conversations.’ Meanwhile a short story written by Ajatashatru, inserted into the text, is really rather good – yet is pulled to bits by other characters in the novel for its lack of originality. But there is not that much meta-textual stuff to scare the horses and there is much else to enjoy: like Around The World In Eighty Days (Jules Verne inevitably crops up in the text and the fakir has his own, Inspector Fix-like, pursuer) it does not pause anywhere long enough to drag. Yet what could have been a charming fable is given an element of bite by the people Ajatashatru meets on the way – often economic migrants desperate to get to a better life: ‘They were all there, the men no one wanted.’ Ajatashatru himself is fleeing a terrible past although, by the end, everything is neatly tied up for the reformed fakir in fairytale fashion. But rescuers looking for survivors from a sunken boat with 76 migrants on board will never ‘find the lifeless body of a young Somalian – a seventeen-year old boy called Ishmael – who had boarded the ship one morning, full of hope’. He was only able to pay for that doomed trip to a better life because Ajatashatru, trying to atone for his own sins, dropped a 500 euro note at his feet. The fakir’s ludicrous, charmed journey has its bitter flipside in reality.