Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio
Amara Lakhous

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Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio



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Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio

Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a piazza Vittorio
translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Copyright © 2006 by Edizioni e/o
Translation copyright © 2008 by Europa Editions

Third Wail

This morning Iqbal asked me if I knew the difference between a tolerant person and a racist. I answered that a racist is in conflict with others because he doesn’t believe they’re on his level, while a tolerant person treats others with respect. At that point he came closer to me, and, in order not to be heard by anyone, as if he were about to reveal a secret, he whispered, “Racists don’t smile!”

I thought all day about racists who refuse to smile and I realized that Iqbal has made an important discovery. The racist’s problem is not with others but with himself. I would go further: he doesn’t smile at his fellow-man because he doesn’t know how to smile at himself.

Iqbal pointed to a box of apples in front of him: “When I see a rotten apple I immediately separate it from the rest of the apples, because if I left it there all the apples would be spoiled. Why can’t the police be strict with immigrants who are criminals? Why should the honest ones who sweat for a piece of bread suffer!”

Iqbal’s words opened my eyes. Labeling any immigrant a criminal, without distinction, is a déjà vu. Italian immigrants in the United States were accused of being in the Mafia, and suffered tremendously. Certainly, the Italians don’t seem to have learned anything from the lessons of history.

The Truth According to Elisabetta Fabiani

The government should take up the question of the cost of living right away. The solution is not to raise taxes and suffocate Italian citizens but to let dogs help: they ask nothing and perform infinite services free of charge. We have to teach them well: to arrest criminals, help old people, fix electrical appliances, prepare food, and so on. Ah, I forgot a very important thing: dogs can even work in factories without making trouble, because they don’t have a union and they never go on strike. [...] I say that the moment has arrived to abandon dangerous ideas, such as that dogs are only good for guard duty.

The Truth According to Stefania Massaro

One of the most beautiful stages of love is meeting, when one dives into the sea of love without bothering about details or asking dull questions.

[...] Some lovers are limited by the temptation to want to know everything about one another. This is the cause of the boredom that can kill passion in an instant. The true lover doesn’t reveal himself entirely. You know why the Tuareg inspire admiration and amazement? Because they don’t uncover their faces. Mystery is the secret of the gods.



Tenth Wail “My son, if, as you walk, armed men stop you and force you to be the judge, asking you, ‘Who is right and who is wrong, Cain or Abel?’ woe to you if you answer, ‘Cain is right and Abel is wrong.’ The armed men might be Abel’s men and it will be the end of you. Oh my son, woe to you twice if you say that Cain is wrong and Abel is right, because the armed men might be Cain’s men, and it will be the end of you. Oh, my son, woe to you three times if you say that neither Cain nor Abel is wrong: it will be the end of you, because our time is very short, and there is no room for neutrality. My son, cut out your tongue and swallow it.”

text checked (see note) August 2022

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