Dr. Richard Hodges, on presenting the honorary degree causa, stated
Mr. Lakhous, you are a bicultural and bilingual author, writing in Arabic and Italian, whose novels analyse issues of displacement, integration and identity in a sharp, satirical and insightful way.
You were born in Algiers and moved to Rome as a young writer in 1995, with a manuscript in your luggage. Four years later the manuscript, written when you were only 23 years old, became your first novel, titled Le Cimici e il Pirata (‘The Bug(s) and the Pirates’). In Rome you earned a second degree in Cultural Anthropology, with a dissertation on Muslim-Arab immigrants in Italy.
Your second novel, Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a Piazza Vittorio (‘Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio;) was published in 2006. Set in one of the most colourful and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods in contemporary Rome, described by you as “a kind of laboratory for the future, the prototype of intellectual cohabitation” this novel provides a compelling anthropological analysis of a metropolis that is still adapting to its growing multi-cultural society.
Amara Lakhous, it is for this work about the complexities and fascination of the Eternal City that the signature First Year Program of our university has taken as a guiding spirit for our freshmen’s introduction to Italian culture and custom. For this our students, faculty and I are deeply grateful.
Your other novels, (Divorzio all’islamica a viale Marconi (published in 2010 and translated into English in 2012 as ‘Divorce Islamic Style’), Contesa per un maialino italianissimo a San Salvario (published in 2013 and translated into English as ‘Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet’) are all set in Italy, and provide a humorous and compelling insight into the lives of displaced communities in this country.
For your work bridging cultures and languages – “I Arabize the Italian and Italianize the Arabic” you are known to have commented - you have received, amongst others, the Premio Flaiano per la narrativa and Algeria’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix des libraires Algeriens, respectively in 2006 and 2008.
For your promising and distinguished career, the integrity of your work, and your contribution to the themes of identity, language and integration, we are honoured to welcome you into our diverse family, on the recommendation of our Faculty and by action of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Rome.
Therefore, by the authority invested in me and in accordance with the laws of the District of Columbia, and the State of Delaware, I do hereby confer upon you, Amara Lakhous, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa.