Synopses & Reviews
It's 2005. The Italian secret service has received intel that a group of Muslim immigrants based in the Viale Marconi neighborhood of Rome is planning a terrorist attack. Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Arabic, goes undercover to infiltrate the group and to learn who its leaders are. Christian poses as Issa, a recently arrived Tunisian in search of for a job and a place to sleep. He soon meets Sofia, a young Egyptian immigrant dressed in a burqa who lives in the neighborhood with her husband Said, a.k.a. Felice, an architect who has reinvented himself in Italy as a pizza cook.
"Lakhous (Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio) deftly satirizes political, cultural, and religious corruption in this clever comedy of errors. Sicilian narrator Christian Mazzari, code name Issa 'the Tunisian,' is an excitable 'Arabist' student recruited by SISMI, Italian military intelligence in 2005, to infiltrate the Arab Muslim community in Rome and learn about 'Operation Little Cairo' (Little Cairo being an 'international calling center'). Issa shares narration duties with feisty Egyptian housewife Sophia, a call center patron chronicling her marriage to and multiple divorces from Said, who is called Felice (happy), the Islamic fundamentalist whom she derisively calls 'the architect' (he has a degree in architecture but works in a restaurant). Secretly working as a hairdresser to save money for her sister Zeineb's reconstructive surgery after a botched female circumcision, Sophia walks a minefield between cultures: Islamic, Arab, Egyptian, Italian, and, eventually as she comes into contact with the handsome Issa that of 'Tunisian' intelligence. Though a quick conclusion leaves a thread or two still untied, the novel still exposes what role personal corruption has played all along in Little Cairo's political, cultural, and religious intrigue. Issa, who cleaves to aphorisms, knows that 'he wolf with a bad conscience thinks the worst of everyone,' and it's a worthwhile satire that reveals how that wolf is made." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Amara Lakhous was born in Algiers in 1970. He has a degree in philosophy from the University of Algiers and another in cultural anthropology from the University la Sapienza, Rome. Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio (Europa Editions, 2008) was awarded Italy's prestigious Flaiano prize and was described by the Seattle Times as a "wonderfully offbeat novel." Lakhous lives in Italy.