A small culturally mixed community living in an apartment building in the centre of Rome is thrown into disarray when one of the tenants is murdered. As each of the victim’s neighbours is questioned by the police, readers are offered an all-access pass into the most colourful neighbourhood in contemporary Rome. Each character takes his or her turn “giving evidence,” recounting his or her story—the drama of racial identity, the anxieties and daily humiliations born of a life spent on society’s margins, but also the hilarious imbroglios that are inevitable in this melting pot of cultures. What emerges is a moving story that is common to us all.
With language that is as colourful as the neighbourhood it describes, Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio is characterised by a seemingly effortless prose that borrows from the cinematic tradition of the Commedia all’Italiana, as exemplified by directors such as Federico Fellini. At the heart of this bittersweet comedy, winner of Italy’s prestigious Flaiano Prize for Fiction, is a social reality we often tend to ignore and an anthropological analysis, refreshing in its generosity, that cannot fail to fascinate.