The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe

The first word spoken by the Indian man Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod upon his arrival in France was, oddly enough, a Swedish word.

Pretty – no, incredibly exhausting story about an absurd idea turning even more absurd while weaving in a story about illegal immigrants and their plight. Whenever the story moves towards genuine, sweet, some learned lessons, the author destroys the moment with another awful Indians-have-weird-names joke.

Fakir Ajatashatru wants a bed of nails from the IKEA (because they sell such a thing there?) and talks his village into getting him a ticket to Paris. Woefully unprepared, unknowing and naive, he quickly pisses off a gypsy (isn’t that supposed to be Traveler or Roma?), becomes an illegal alien in several countries and travels through Europe. He meets good women that for some reason want to help him and ends up in situations suitable for Hollywood slapstick movies.

The library put this in the comedy sector, the title amused me. Sadly, the story just left me with a feeling of disappointment and slight disgust.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe, Romain Puértolas, Harvill Secker 2014

Short Girls

After Miles left, Van began checking the security alarm every time she entered the house.

What’s the difference between chick-lit and a story about two sisters and their careers, love-lives and family connections? Okay, there can be big differences when the one genre refuses to act like women are individuals with a multidimensional character, but that’s bad writing, not a genre problem.

Anyway, Short Girls. Two Asian-American sisters who stumble through life, love, family and career while trying to discover why they drifted apart. Their father is the unwelcome thing that binds them, continues to bring them together because of his needs, his inventions, his struggles as a short man and as an immigrant.

Besides the very recognizable (daily) things, Nguyen shows the strange world of being a minority, always knowing that the first judgment will be on your not-of-the-majority looks. Even for the American born sisters there are several extra layers of being different.

Short Girls gives a nice insight into the life of at the same time remarkable and ordinary women.

Short Girls, Bich Minh Nguyen, Viking 2009

The Shadow Girls

It was one of the last days of the twentieth century.

Immigrants aren’t less human than those that have been living in one country or even city for the past hundred years. Somehow that’s still hard to remember. The reader, led by the hand of main character Jesper Humlin, is taught the tough way.

Jesper isn’t a character to be proud of. He’s a slightly successful poet who thinks the world’s against him and will only do something for his own gain. Meeting three (illegal) immigrants at first makes him think about what an amazing inspiration they’ll be, until he realizes that they’re human and have their own stories, not for him to take.

And like that he steps aside to give room to those stories, to show that sales numbers aren’t that important when you traveled through the entirety of Europe in hope of a better life. It’s brutal, but never sentimental. Because these girls deserve more than just sympathy and a pat on the head, they deserve their humanity.

The Shadow Girls, Henning Mankell, Harvill Secker 2012