Book Reading & Discussion: Amara Lakhous: Award-Winning Algerian Author Presents a Trilogy of Works

Wed, March 4, 2015 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Alwan for the Arts is pleased to present an evening of discussion with Algerian author Amara Lakhous, introducing a trilogy of his works, recently translated into English: Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet, Divorce Islamic Style.

Lakhous recently relocated to New York and promises to rank amongst the great Arab authors in North America, after the accomplishments he has achieved throughout Europe.

Lakhous' presentation will be introduced by Taoufik Ben-Amor on 'oud and will be followed by a moderated discussion with Madeleine Dobie, Associate Professor at Columbia University's Department of French and Romance Philology.

New York Times Review:

“Divorce Islamic Style, a new novel by Amara Lakhous, is a delightful way to set the record straight, a whimsical and at times heartbreaking look at the Muslim immigrants who work in pizza kitchens and live in communal apartments near Viale Marconi, a crowded, commercial part of Rome that tourists rarely see." - ALESSANDRA STANLEY

The Independent Review:

On Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet, "State-of-the-nation satire that brings home the bacon." - JONATHON GIBBS

Words Without Borders Review:

"'Doesn't make any difference who we are or what we are," a cholera germ announces in one of Twain's stories, "there's always somebody to look down on!" No recent novel illustrates the truth of this axiom with more precision, intelligence, and humor than Amara Lakhous's Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittori, which is exactly what the title promises, except better." - MAUD NEWTON


Amara Lakhous was born in 1970 in Algiers, the sixth of nine children. His parents were Berbers, and they sent him to a Koran school for four years where he learned classical Arabic. He learned French at junior school, which meant that he had the role of mediating between his Algerian and his French relatives. He was influenced from an early age by authors like Mahfouz, Flaubert and Hemingway, and after finishing school decided to study at the Faculty for Philosophy in Algiers, where he also delved into the roots of his Algerian identity, religion, the civil war and systems of male superiority. He went on to work for Algerian radio, where, like many of his colleagues, he had to put up with repeated threats. «I was sick and tired of waiting for my murderers», is how Lakhous explained his decision to leave Algeria. In 1995, with a manuscript in his luggage, he moved to Rome.

The manuscript, which he had written in Arabic when he was 23, was published four years later in a bilingual edition: »Le cimici e il pirata« (tr: The Bug and the Pirate) is about the 40-year-old Hassinu, a kind of imaginary pirate, who is incapable of enjoying his freedom. Lakhous earned a second degree at the University La Sapienza in Rome in Cultural Anthropology: his dissertation was on Muslim-Arab immigrants in Italy. His second book was published in Italy in 2006: «Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a Piazza Vittorio» (2008, Engl: «Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio») is a revised version of his novel «Come farti allattare dalla lupa senza che ti morda», which was released in 2003 in Algeria and Lebanon. The book tells with irony and precision the story of a murder in Rome, and with its descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of the people who have come from all over the world and now live there, it looks at the theme of identity in a multicultural environment: »I lived for six years on the Piazza Vittorio, it’s a kind of laboratory for the future, the prototype of intellectual cohabitation.» Lakhous doesn’t only use the unadulterated perspective of the immigrant to focus on the central issues which natives overlook. He also experiments with language by enriching his Italian prose with expressions, imagery and terms from his original language: «I Arabise the Italian and Italianise the Arabic.»

Amara Lakhous has been awarded, among others, the Premio Flaiano per la narrativa in 2006 and Algeria’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix des libraires Algeriens in 2008.

Taoufik Ben Amor is a Tunisian vocalist, percussionist and 'oud player. Taoufiq started learning percussion at an early age, then learned the Malouf (Andalusian repertoire) and sang with ensembles and choirs for many years. For the last two decades, Taoufiq has been an active performer in the US and Canada and played in various venues including the Joseph Papp Theater, Symphony Space, Cooper Union, the Knitting Factory as well as several campuses. Taoufiq is also an educator, who researches and lectures on the subject and conducts workshops. Taoufiq is currently Professor of Arabic at Columbia University.

Madeleine Dobie is an Associate Professor of French at Columbia University. Her areas of specialization and research include Eighteenth-Century French literature, Francophone literature, colonial history, as well as the cinema of North Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean and the cultural dimensions of migration and diaspora. Madeleine Dobie is an author of several publications including Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture and Foreign Bodies: Gender, Language and Culture in French Orientalism among others.


Alwan's programming is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.

Last updated: 2015-03-03 08:02:00

Amara Lakhous
Amara Lakhous
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous
Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet by Amara Lakhous
Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet by Amara Lakhous
Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous
Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous

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