Saviano, Roberto 1979-
Saviano, Roberto 1979-
Born 1979, in Naples, Italy. Education: Received degree in philosophy from the University of Naples.
Journalist for L'espresso and La Repubblica.
Premio Viareggio, 2006, for Gomorra: Viaggio nell'impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra.
Gomorra: Viaggio nell'impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 2006, translated from Italian by Virginia Jewiss published as Gomorrah, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
Gomorrah was adapted as a screenplay by Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni Di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, and Massimo Gaudioso, and produced by Fandango, 2008.
Neapolitan journalist Roberto Saviano has specialized in the study of the Camorra criminal society—a mafia-like organization centered in the Campagna region of Italy, and especially strong in Naples itself. Since the publication of his exposé Gomorra: Viaggio nell'impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra, translated from Italian by Virginia Jewiss and published as Gomorrah in 2007, Saviano has gained an international reputation for his courageous, principled stand against organized crime in southwestern Italy. "In the United States," explained New York Times Book Review contributor William Grimes, "organized crime has entered a Tony Soprano twilight, as small-time bosses carve up ever-smaller wedges of a shrinking pie. In Italy, by contrast, all systems are go. In shipping, fashion and construction, to name just three booming businesses, the mob holds sway, often acting through, rather than despite, local government. All told, according to a recent report by an Italian small-business association, mob-related activity accounts for the single largest sector of the Italian economy."
Gomorrah explains how the modern Camorra criminal society operates. Unlike the Sicilian mafia, the Camorra is very decentralized; individual families battle one another for territory, reminiscent in a way of the Montagues and Capulets in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the Camorra has managed to make its influence felt worldwide, dominating the Italian branches of several global industries and trade. "In his book," stated Women's Wear Daily (WWD) reviewer Alessandra Ilari, "the author describes in detail the interaction between fashion and the Camorra via illegal workshops and factories, how fashion is also a vehicle for money laundering, the industry's ties with Chinese textile suppliers and the lightning speed at which the region's workshops can turn out perfectly crafted pieces—but at the cost to workers of long hours and underpaid shifts. It tells of auctions for contracts where the winning formula for manufacturers seeking to produce for luxury brands is highest quantity-lowest price-shortest time frame." "Saviano documents the Camorra's recent history, detailing more than just the expected, like its reach in drugs, extortion, high fashion, shipping (increasingly with Chinese gangs) and politics," declared Ian Fisher in a review for the New York Times. "He shows other connections, like how Tuscany stays eco-lovely and full of tourists by shipping its trash south illegally." "The Camorra's stranglehold was underscored … when tons of household rubbish piled up uncollected in towns throughout the Bay of Naples," stated London Times contributor John Follain; "the secret society has long controlled the lucrative collection and treatment of such waste."
The book has already had an impact on the Camorra. Even though some local political figures, perhaps already dominated by the crime lords, treated Gomorrah with disdain or hostility, important Italian cultural leaders spoke out in defense of Saviano and his attempt to tell the truth about the status of criminal activity in Campagna. Author Umberto Eco spoke out in defense of the reporter, and "according to L'Espresso, the magazine that has published much of his work," Peter Popham reported in the London Independent, Gomorrah "has forced the state to act. The Interior Ministry is putting in place a plan to restore public order in Campa[g]na, and there is a reawakening of resistance among the civilian population. While everybody has been looking at Naples and the outskirts, the book has put under the eyes of everyone the economic and military power of the clans of Caserta, the area at the heart of Gomorrah."
The fallout from the book has personally affected Saviano—he has been forced to seek police protection and leave his native city for a time because of threats against his safety—but it has also had a severe impact on his immediate family. "His brother has left to live in another part of Italy," explained John Hooper in a review for the Guardian. "His mother, a teacher, has considered doing the same. Her son recounts with a bitter smile how her neighbours in Casal di Principe, where Saviano grew up, organised a petition to the council asking for her to be given ‘safer accommodation.’ He, meanwhile, has been given added protection after an incident when he went to a trial as part of the research for his next book. One of the defendants said to him: ‘Remember me to Father Peppino.’" Father Peppino was a priest in Casal di Principe who was assassinated by the mafia in 1994. "Sometimes life with an armed escort really gets me down, and I'm nostalgic for all the things I used to do and no longer can," he told an interviewer for the Pan Macmillan Web site. "But I'm finding ways to adjust. Perhaps I'm missing the one thing that would lead me to have real regrets: and that's fear. I'm not afraid of what could happen to me and I believe that what I've done in writing this book has been worth it. And if people ask me if I'd do it again, I have to admit that I would, just the same."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), January 14, 2008, John Hooper, "If You Don't Scare Anyone, You Haven't Really Succeeded," review of Gomorrah.
Independent (London, England), October 17, 2006, Peter Popham, "Man Who Took on the Mafia: The Truth about Italy's Gangsters," review of Gomorrah.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Gomorrah.
Mother Jones, November 1, 2007, "Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System," review of Gomorrah, p. 85.
Nation, December 10, 2007, "Underworlds," review of Gomorrah, p. 28.
New York Review of Books, April 17, 2008, "Italy: The Crooks in Control," review of Gomorrah, p. 69.
New York Times, November 3, 2007, Ian Fisher, "An Italian Author Driven into the Shadows by Success," review of Gomorrah, p. 4.
New York Times Book Review, November 14, 2007, William Grimes, "Where Savage Parasites Rot a Nation from Within," review of Gomorrah; November 25, 2007, "Underworld," p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2007, review of Gomorrah, p. 52.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2008, review of Gomorrah.
Times (London, England), February 10, 2008, John Follain, "Mafia Target Roberto Saviano to Take Aim at Silvio Berlusconi," review of Gomorrah.
Times Literary Supplement (London, England), February 22, 2008, "Strictly Business," review of Gomorrah, p. 27.
Time International (London, England), October 30, 2006, "Making the Hit List," review of Gomorrah, p. 19.
Women's Wear Daily (WWD), February 21, 2008, Alessandra Ilari, "Book Illuminates Role of Organized Crime in Italian Fashion," review of Gomorrah, p. 8.
Pan Macmillan Web site,http://www.panmacmillan.com/ (July 17, 2008), author interview.
Roberto Saviano Home Page,http://www.robertosaviano.it (July 17, 2008).
Roberto Saviano MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/robertosaviano (July 17, 2008).