Divorce Islamic Style

Amara Lakhous, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $15 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-60945-066-3
Lakhous (Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio) deftly satirizes political, cultural, and religious corruption in this clever comedy of errors. Sicilian narrator Christian Mazzari, code name Issa “the Tunisian,” is an excitable “Arabist” student recruited by SISMI, Italian military intelligence in 2005, to infiltrate the Arab Muslim community in Rome and learn about “Operation Little Cairo” (Little Cairo being an “international calling center”). Issa shares narration duties with feisty Egyptian housewife Sophia, a call center patron chronicling her marriage to and multiple divorces from Said, who is called Felice (happy), the Islamic fundamentalist whom she derisively calls “the architect” (he has a degree in architecture but works in a restaurant). Secretly working as a hairdresser to save money for her sister Zeineb’s reconstructive surgery after a botched female circumcision, Sophia walks a minefield between cultures: Islamic, Arab, Egyptian, Italian, and, eventually—as she comes into contact with the handsome Issa—that of “Tunisian” intelligence. Though a quick conclusion leaves a thread or two still untied, the novel still exposes what role personal corruption has played all along in Little Cairo’s political, cultural, and religious intrigue. Issa, who cleaves to aphorisms, knows that “[t]he wolf with a bad conscience thinks the worst of everyone,” and it’s a worthwhile satire that reveals how that wolf is made. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 03/27/2012
Genre: Fiction
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