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Repubblica (Italy): "the real protagonist here is the piazza itself, its life made up of many lives intertwined, its chaotic vitality. Read this book, it’s well worth the time. It represents a new look at a new city."

Date: Mar 17 2008

Piazza Vittorio, Elevators, and Civilization
By Marco Lodoli
La Repubblica (Italy)
December 3, 2006

A perfect title and a handsome cover are a good start for a novel, at least allowing it to provoke curiosity in those disoriented browsers standing before the weekly tide of new releases that floods the shelves and tabletops of bookstores. Naturally, title and design are not everything: Remembrance of Things Past and One Hundred Years of Solitude would have earned a place of honor in our libraries even without their striking titles. But perhaps we wouldn’t have noticed Amara Lakhous’s novel if the title had not seduced us. Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio ignites the imagination, it drives us to the cash register and then home to learn what the devil has happened in that building inhabited by a mix of people, and in that elevator, apple of contention.

The descriptive copy [of the Italian edition] cites That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Emilio Gadda, and perhaps is exaggerates slightly: Lakhous’s novel does not reach those heights. But it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Amara Lakhous has lived in Rome since 1995. He has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Algiers, and once in Anthropology from La Sapienza University in Rome. He recently completed his Ph.D. thesis, entitled “Living Islam As a Minority,” which he plans to adapt for a non-academic audience, and which promises to be most interesting.

In the meanwhile, he has written this bittersweet novel, winner of the Flaiano Prize. The story revolves around an investigation into the murder of a dreadful thug nicknamed The Gladiator. Many of the building’s inhabitants have a hypothesis to put forward: the nagging Neapolitan concierge, the professor from Milan who hates all Romans, the Iranian cook who can’t stand pizza, the lonely lady who lives for her little dog, the Dutch director who wants to make a film about Piazza Vittorio, the serious-minded female volunteer, and above all, Amedeo,  highly educated Algerian exile, friend to all, and prime murder suspect.

But the real protagonist here is the piazza itself, its life made up of many lives intertwined, its chaotic vitality. Read this book, it’s well worth the time. It represents a new look at a new city.

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