clash of civilization over an elevator in piazza vittorio by a lakhous

  Wouldn’t it be interesting if one representative from each country around the world came together to –no, not to fight for world peace at the UN but– make bread?  Who has never rallied at the scantiness of nouvelle cuisine or experienced nausea at the thought of snail porridge? There’s one food that transcends all times, all cultures: bread.  I imagine everybody would quietly and perhaps happily bake together, far from thinking about the potential social, political, or religious barriers that could be standing between them.  Wouldn’t it be great to just be completely united for once?

Ever since I read Hygiene and the Assassin (please read it), I’ve vehemently sought international authors to fill my reading list; well mainly books that are translated and published by Europa.  It’s no bread-making but I wanted to unite with non-mainstream literature.  At the end of my search, I grabbed Amara Lakhous’ Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio before I could even mentally finish reading the title!  Anyway.  Lakhous is actually an Algerian author who was naturalized as Italian after fleeing from his own country for not being religious enough.

The book is humbly captivating.  It takes place in a small apartment in Italy that is fully occupied with residents with international DNA: an Iranian chef, a Bangladeshi shoe keeper, a Peruvian maid, a Milanese professor, a concierge from Naples, and seven others.  Although the residents are amicably acquainted, and everybody lives alongside like making bread together, a mysterious murder case shakes them up to turn their backs on one another.  Bread making no more!  Racial stereotypes, cultural anomalies, and suppressed emotions bitterly surface as every resident is investigated as a potential suspect.  Who killed Lorenzo?  As the anatomy of the murder unfolds, everybody bristles at the insinuations from one another and hastily looks for the exit sign.  It’s not until the investigator reveals the true stories under the different colored skins that people begin to feel guilty about testifying against their neighbors.

The issues that are sadly present in our society today is so alive throughout the book.  It brings our attention to immigration, racism, and terrorism.  But the allegorical representations are not blatant so the reading is quite enjoyable (not a read-it-and-learn-it-so-do-something-about-it).  The more you flip through the pages, the more surprises you’ll find. Definitely a perspective worth reading.

dee’s recommendation: 4/5