Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator at Piazza Vittorio

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In a modern-day Roman apartment building where immigrants, transplants, and multi-generational locals are represented by linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious differences, a series of happenings end to arise a clash of civilizations that pave the way to misunderstandings, prejudices and suffered lives. Each character takes his or her turn centre-stage by recounting his or her story made up of personal dramas of racial identity, daily humiliations, fears and indifference, from Marco who is a would-be lawyer but he works as an insurance agent with low-profile vocational ambitions, to Giulia who is a creative photographer in search for her inspiration, to Nurit who is forced to live in her hated condition of political refugee, to Amedeo who hides his really identity for his needs, etc.

Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio. Interview with Amara Lakhous

All these characters follow their own paths, crossing their lives because of a limited space where they have to share their existence: the building and the elevator that becomes a pretext to voice a series of endless clashes between them. An investigation ensues and one by one, the neighbours offer their querulous, seemingly tangential testimony. Ask any North American: too many Mexicans!

Immigration is a touchy subject, it can be serious and sad. Illustrated brilliantly by the topic that no one can agree on: Is Amedeo an immigrant?


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His Italian is superb, he knows Rome better than long-time Romans, the truth for him is not necessary, the past is something to move away from. And it brings up the most interesting question: Who is Roman anyway? Who is Italian?

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Who is any nationality, really? I know from myself, my movement and my life make a much more suitable definition than any land mass I am in or have left. Then there is the translation: it sucks. These were obviously only in the Italian edition for any translation of regional expressions that Anna Goldstein has made, have been rendered flat.

Flat as in boring, flat as in monotone, flat as in the opposite of spoken Italian. A good translation captures the poetry of a language in another language.


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