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BOOK REVIEW:

Clash of civilizations over an elevator in Piazza Vittorio

4

Murder is the obvious problem, but finding out who did it leads to smaller issues with bigger implications--the loves and hates which immigrants from diverse backgrounds have for each other and their adopted city, Rome.                    

Who killed Lorenzo Manfredini aka the Gladiator?  Amedeo aka Ahmed Salmi is the key suspect because he has disappeared, which is what perpetrators always do--run away. Don't they?  Not so quick cautions one of the residents who lives in the low-rent apartment building in modern Rome. They are the marginalized immigrants from various parts of the world, and regions and cities of Italy. Their object of contention is the elevator about which they vent their frustrations, animosities, differences, presumptions and prejudices about Rome and each other. Told in a type of Rashomon-style with each person giving evidence as to the who and why of the crime. Their stories alternate with Amedeo's own opinions and views about their stories. Lakhous cleverly allows viewpoints and prejudices to be exposed through each person's version of their life, background and relation to the purported criminal. Right to the end, even the judgment of the policeman is riddled with prejudices, one is against television which he believes has put no-good ideas into the minds of would-be criminals. The inspector mutters that he is not like Lieutenant Colombo, whose suspects usually surrender, and that, "Reality is very different from the movies."  It is a modern ship of fools with unguarded, humorous rumblings about others, while trying to help the police find the culprit. Lackhous provides a clever, incisive, satirical exposé of what we are unaware of when we speak openly and under pressure.

In 2008 when I first read this novel I found it to be unique in its style and presentation of immigrants and outsiders. Rereading the novel after six years it is just as compelling, funny and illuminating about human foibles as people try to find a civilized way to live in an increasingly smaller world.  It is interesting that Cornell University has designated the novel for the 2014 New Student Reading Project to be read by incoming freshman and transfer students:  http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/04/novel-multicultural-clash-reading-project-selection\  This is the list of past selections:  http://reading.cornell.edu/  For further reading see one of LAPL's book lists, "Immigrants in Fiction" http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/lapl-reads/book-lists/immigrants-fiction     

                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

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