It's 2005. The Italian secret service has received intel that a group of Muslim immigrants based in the Viale Marconi neighborhood of Rome is planning a terrorist attack. Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Arabic, goes undercover to infiltrate the group and to learn who its leaders are. Christian poses as Issa, a recently arrived Tunisian in search of a job and a place to sleep. He soon meets Sofia, a young Egyptian immigrant dressed in a burqa who lives in the neighborhood with her husband Said, a.k.a. Felice, an architect who has reinvented himself in Italy as a pizza cook.
The challenge, as well as the potential delight, in reading a novel originally written in a language other than one's own, is becoming accustomed to the flow of the writing as it relates to the traditions of the country of origin. Especially if, like myself, the reader speaks and reads only English - differences in culture, conversational quirks, viewpoints about gender, work, money, and even romance take some getting used to. Amara Lakhous, author of Divorce Islamic Style, was born in Algeria, speaks fluent Arabic, but lives in Italy and writes in Italian. While his novel has no particular literary pretense, it is a sparkling political satire set amidst a pseudo-thriller. (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
NPR's Fresh Air
What's memorable about Lakhous' novel is what he shows us of an often inward-looking nation confronting the teeming vibrancy of multicultural life.
Do we have an Italian Camus on our hands? Just possibly... No recent Italian novel so elegantly and directly confronts the 'new Italy.'
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.
A satirical, enigmatic take on the racial tensions that afflict present-day Europe.
Novels and bestsellers written in English often get translated into many languages, yet the reverse is seldom accomplished in equal volume. According to the founders of Three Percent, a resource for international literature based at the University of Rochester, "Unfortunately, only about 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation... An even greater shame is that only a fraction of the titles that do make their way into English are covered by the mainstream media. So despite the quality of these books, most translations go virtually unnoticed and never find their audience."
The situation has been improving gradually, particularly in the last several years. Literary awards often serve to bring foreign literature to the attention of American publishers. Italy has its own awards, such as the Strega Prize, awarded in 2008 to Paolo Giordano for The Solitude of Prime Numbers. Amara Lakhous, author of Divorce Islamic Style, won Italy's Flaiano Prize for his first novel, Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in the Piazza...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...