Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Gomorra" (Gomorrah. The Other Mafia) by Roberto Saviano

Year of publication: 2006
Genre: UNO (Unidentified Narrative Object), non-fiction

About the author: Roberto Saviano was born in Naples in 1979. He employs prose and news-reporting style to narrate the story of the Camorra (the mafia of Naples and the surrounding area). His first book, Gomorra, which describes the illegal activities of the Camorra business, was a bestseller in Italy. He has been threatened by several Neapolitan “godfathers” belonging to the Casalesi clan, so he was assigned a permanent police escort by the Italian Minister of the Interior. He now writes for newspapers such as ‘La Repubblica’ and ‘L’Espresso’.

What it’s all about: This is a powerful and shocking insight into Neapolitan mafia (Camorra) and its wide implications in Italy’s and the world’s organized crime. Gomorra was made into a movie of the same name directed by Matteo Garrone, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2008.

Some thoughts: The first man who had the guts to write about mafia, with names and everything: I tip my hat to Roberto Saviano. Forget about Mario Puzo. Even forget about Camilleri’s Commissario Montalbano. This is the real mafia, and that’s probably why the English version is subtitled The Other Mafia.
I get so pissed off when I meet some people who, as soon as they learn that I am Italian, state that they love Italian cinema, and if I dare to ask which movies they like, they answer very proudly: The Godfather and Quentin Tarantino. Apart from the fact that those are American movies with American actors made by American people, mafia is not like that. Mafia is an unpalatable reality few outside of Italy understand or are able to believe. Its implications are worldwide and its power huge and unstoppable. As I come from the north of Italy, where organized crime takes more subtle forms, I was quite shocked to learn the extent of the phenomenon. Saviano gives a very detailed account of the business of mafia, explaining how every economical activity in the outskirts of Naples is linked to the Camorra clans. What is astonishing is that these clan leaders consider themselves to be simple businessmen who work in the ‘system’. The fact that their activities are illegal seems to be quite normal for them.
In towns like Secondigliano and Casal di Principe, the underground is the only way to earn a living, since there is one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. During this year’s Olympic Games, a boxer called Clemente Russo from Marcianise, Caserta, dedicated his silver medal to the youths of his town, with the hope that they find a way out of the widespread criminality of the area.
It is clear that nobody in the Italian government has read this book, otherwise they would have sent some soldiers to Secondigliano and the surrounding area, instead of scaring the pigeons in Piazza del Plebiscito!
On the literary merits of the book: at the beginning, I was baffled because I could not understand whether I was reading plain non-fiction or a narrative, highly informative fiction book. Certain parts of the book have a first person unnamed protagonist and some characters, though underdeveloped. After having read half of the book, I came to the conclusion that this is a new narrative form in Italian literature (Wu Ming 1 called it Unidentified Narrative Project: Quite appropriate!).

Oh, please make sure that you check Wu Ming, a group of Italian writers who were once part of the famous Luther Blissett Project. Click
Check out another review of Gomorra from a blogger friend, here.


  1. Stefania: Great review! I'm about 100 pages into this book at the moment, and it's very hard to put down. Saviano's a hell of a writer...even in translation.

  2. bello questo blogsulla letteratura...complimenti per la scelta dei libri da recensire... se vuoi vieni a farmi visita...

  3. bellissimo libro infatti...
    e a proposito di wu ming e luther blisset... Q e' nella mia top three dei libri preferiti (3 libri dalle posizioni intercambiabili a seconda del periodo...)!

    arrivate le cartoline?
    un bacione


  4. Le cartoline (addirittura due!) non sono ancora arrivate, spero non si siano perse per strada...

    Com'è che non trovo Q nel catalogo dell'ibs? Ha qualche sottotitolo?

  5. mmmhhh, spero non si siano perse davvero... stavo anche pensando di spedirtene altre... adesso vedremo...

    ce l'hai una cartolina della ridente montesilvano (pe)?

    da quel che mi ricordo Q non ha sottotitoli, ma forse è un po' complicato da trovare perchè è abbastanza vecchio. io ne avevo due diverse edizioni, ma manco a dirlo, li ho prestati a qualcuno a cui non avrei dovuto... peccato altrimenti te ne avrei data una copia.

    un baco


  6. p.s.: i'm currently reading "half of a yellow sun" as you suggested... can't put it down!

  7. Ahi, ahi... anch'io ho prestato uno dei miei romanzi preferiti e non mi è mai tornato indietro. Ragion per cui sto molto attenta prima di prestare i miei oggetti preferiti.

    Non solo non ho una cartolina di Montesilvano nè di Pescara, ma non ne ho nessuna dell'Abruzzo (dove tra l' altro non sono mai stata). Ma stai tranquilla, sei in vacanza. Intanto aspetto le altre 2!

  8. Eh si, Gomorra è un caso letterario.

    L'ho letto 2 volte, Saviano ha avuto la capacità di raccontare il Reale con un linguaggio accattivante, coinvolgente.

    Da non perdere insomma.


  9. Aha! I remember reading this review before... I always seem to love your recommendations.

  10. Hello. here by chance,
    so I think I'll ask if any of you knows where to go to buy Gomorra online in english. possibly a book that doesn't come from the States cos silly to pay the book itself 3 bucks -used one - and the shipping 13!
    TA Sara!