Monday, November 26, 2007

Roberto Saviano - vedi Napoli e poi muori

I was just thinking recently of blogging about young writer and journalist Roberto Saviano when the New York Times made his Gomorrah, written in 2006, one of its most important books of the year.

The book is a work of investigative journalism on the Camorra, the organized crime centered in the Campania region, of which Naples is the capital. The title is a play on words about the wholly accurate representation of the city as a byword for darkness and corruption. The administration of Prime Minister Romano Prodi briefly considered sending in the Army to preside over Naples last year at this time, but decided against it- it would have been an implicit acknowledgment that Italy has lost control of the South. Which it has.

It is hard to over-emphasize how rare this book is in the context of Italian journalism. A measure of this and why it should be so rare is given by the consequences of Saviano's work: he is now in hiding and receives police protection. What this means, pragmatically, is that one is not really free to report on the various Mafias, of which the Camorra is just one. And this means that we are not cognizant of the size, the nature, the extent and the pervasiveness of the phenomenon of the Camorra. The same can be said about Cosa Nostra and the 'ndrangheta. And the Big Three do not even account for all of organized crime in Italy.

Why should you care? The Big Three are international organizations with interests throughout the world. Interests which often seem to be legal and legitimate. You may be living in a building owned by the 'ndrangheta. You may stay at a luxury hotel controlled by Cosa Nostra. You may eat adulterated products from Camorra businesses.

Read this book. You may want to see the NYT's thoughtful review beforehand (thoughtful apart from the fact that the author thinks the Mantuan Virgil was from Campania- must e-mail her). Donadio asserts: "how this could exist in democratic Europe is an excellent question for political theorists." It is an even more excellent, not to mention urgent, question for European politicians and citizens.

Gomorrah is available through Amazon.