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Alexis' complex background catches up with him and appears to be at the root of his existential malaise. He was brought up a Catholic, while his father was an Italian Jew and his mother, a beautiful mulatto woman. He spent most of his youth in Central Africa and his early adult years in Italy. Will he and his American wife patch up during their stay in beautiful and problematic Israel?
THE SHALOM TOWER SYNDROME (initial title: TRIALITY), a novel by Albert RUSSO set in Israel, Africa and Europe, excerpts of which appeared in : The Midatlantic Review (NY) and Short Story International (NY). English language rights are the authorís sole property. Published in France as
LA TOUR SHALOM in the authorís own French version by Editions Hors Commerce, Paris in 2005.The novel has not been published in book form in English.
Alexis Romani, the protagonist, and his American-born wife, Serena are spending a few months in Israel. They normally live in Milan, Italy, where Alexis, in his mid-thirties, holds an important position in a multinational company. He is going through a nervous collapse. The story is told in the first person, Alexis being the narrator. The young manís complex background catches up with him and appears to be at the root of his existential malaise. He was brought up a Catholic, while his father was an Italian Jew and his mother, a beautiful mulatto woman. He spent most of his youth in Central Afrioa and his early adult years in Italy. Having worked 10 years for KBI Italia, he comes to the conclusion that something is wrong with a business which deals with corrupt governments. And, of course, he has to blame himself for his involvement in the firm. On the other hand he is the founder of a cultural magazine focusing on the Third Worl. Against this background, it is his marriage which is at stake. But that, he isnít aware of. Instead, he relives his past in Africa with his mother, his experiences as a world traveler for KBI Italia - He will probably come out of this maze, after several suicide attempts, but at the cost of a divorce. The tone of the story is in turn hallucinatory and partly lucid, depending on whether it deals with the present in Israel, where suicide bombings have become a regular occurrence, or flashbacks of the past. His nervous breakdown reaches bottom and he questions his triple identity: African, Jewish-Italian and Catholic, asking himself what his true allegiance should be. But heís too muddled to find any answer. His kind lodger in Ashkelon, a resort town near the Gaza border, takes pity on him and suggests that the couple consult a psychiatrist friend of her nephewís. But the experience proves inconclusive. At a party given by Israeli acquaintances, the couple comes across Serenaís former American lover, and Peter, a kindly German professor. This only disturbs Alexis even further. Two days after that social gathering, Alexis phones Peter, on impulse, and asks him whether they could meet in Tel Aviv - without Serena -, where the German visitor is currently staying. The two men will spend a day together, visiting the city, which Peter knows quite well. To crown this friendly tour, Peter takes his new companion to the Shalom Tower for a breathtaking view of the city and the Mediterranean. There, Alexis will attempt suicide, but as he is about to throw himself in the void, his pants get hooked on the guardrail. He barely escaped death, but this situation disconcerts Peter, who, of course, knew nothing of the young Italianís malaise. He takes him back to his hotel and wants to call Serena in Ashkelon to come and fetch her husband. But Alexis begs him not to divulge what has just happened and promises that he wonít subject him to anything foolish. He opens up to the German professor and asks him if he could spend the night at the hotel, giving Serena an excuse. Peter agrees, a little reluctantly. But the hotel is full and the two men will have to share the same room. To Peterís surprise and chagrin, the young man falls in love with him. And they will make love. It is both Alexisí first homosexual experience and a revelation to the young Italian.
Aware of the young manís very disturbed state of mind, Peter suggests that he go to a psychiatric clinic in Belgium where a dear friend of Peterís has been cured. It so happens that Alexisí father resides part of the year in Europeís capital, when he is not attending to his construction business in Africa.
The following winter we find Alexis in a mansion-like clinic in the outskirts of Brussels. He will spend several months there, under the surveillance of a team of psychoanalysts and nurses. His father pays him a visit, and he is accompanied by Serena, who made the trip from Milan. To the young manís dismay, he learns from his fatherís mouth - not his wifeís - that Serena wants to divorce him. This, of course, causes a relapse in his depression, for he suddenly realizes that all of his previous references have crumbled: his job, which he has given up, his marriage is now destroyed, in spite of the fact that the couple had spent seven years in relative harmony, and, finally, the discovery of his homosexuality. All this is too heavy for him to bear. This is when Peter once again enters the picture. As promised, he will come and see Alexis from Germany and will pay him regular visits. There is in the young man a new glimmer of hope, even if he is still terribly vulnerable. This time, however, he learns to refrain from expressing his love for his German benefactor, aware that, apart from his father, Peter is the only person in the world who really cares for him. He values that new friendship and does not wish to do anything taht could mar it. At the end of the story we see both men sharing Peterís apartment in Heidelberg. A new page in Alexisí life is thus being turned.