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The New Yorker: "The author’s real subject is the heave and crush of modern, polyglot Rome, and he renders the jabs of everyday speech with such precision that the novel feels exclaimed rather than written."

Date: Dec 4 2008

A cacophony of voices fills this novel, whose putative plot concerns the murder of a man known as the Gladiator in an apartment building in Rome. One by one, the neighbors offer their querulous, seemingly tangential testimony: an Iranian immigrant explains how he sewed his mouth shut when his petition for refugee status was denied; a lonely Peruvian maid confesses, “The TV is my new family”; a grief-stricken woman accuses Chinese restaurateurs of kidnapping her dog; a Milanese professor sees in the daily desecration of the building’s elevator (by litter, by urine) the decline of civilization. The author’s real subject is the heave and crush of modern, polyglot Rome, and he renders the jabs of everyday speech with such precision that the novel feels exclaimed rather than written.

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