Roberto Saviano: Fighting against mafia with the weaponry of writing


You can’t dry water with water, you can’t extinguish a fire with fire and you can’t fight evil with evil.

In the land of Camorra, the theory of modern rights is turned on its head- Roberto Saviano


His first book was published in 2006 and this book had a precise mission: exposing the system and power of one of the oldest and largest criminal organization in Italy- Camorra.

I wrote it with a literary intention: narrate a life with a style that brings together the rigor of reality and the suggestion of literature, the charm of a novel; the concreteness of data and the momentum of a poetry.
I was seized by some kind of demon, the same that always takes possession of a writer and of which the writer can’t escape if not follow him.

Camorra works differently with around 111 individual clans operating independently. Loose gangs with members numbering to 6,700. There is ruthless violence, drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, racketeering, and prostitution. Saviano was raised in this war zone, encountering several violent scenes as fights broke out on the street.

‘ I saw my first corpse in secondary school. Since then I’ve seen dozens. It didn’t shock me.’

The murder of a local priest finally pricked his conscience as he saw how his death was scandalized afterward and met with indifference by people. The priest Don Peppino Diana was trying to take a fight against the evil. He pinned a notice on local churches, ‘Because I love my people, I must stay quiet no longer.’ Days later, he was shot dead in the face in his own church.

Don Peppino killed for his anti-mafia commitment


Domenico Noviello, a businessman who testified against a clan member received the same fate. After his testimony, he was put under subsequent protection and received it for 7 years until he refused in 2008. He was murdered a week later.

Seeing these atrocities, Roberto made writing a sort of revenge- turning his words into weapons and forcing the wrongdoers to react. Courage to speak against Mafia brought him the fame that every young writer dreams to have but at a cost of liberty that very few dare to lose.

‘With Gomorra, Saviano brought us to America’ said Antonio Iovine, the boss of a Casalesi clan that is believed to be one of the powerful group within Camorra.

And after Gomorra, life never returned the same path. There were threatening letters and silent phone calls. Constant fear of being followed and a life of confinement.

I exist inside four walls, and the only alternative is making public appearances. I’m either at the Nobel academy having a debate on freedom of the press, or I’m inside a windowless room at a police barracks. Light and dark. There is no shade, no in between.


In the end, these death threats aren’t proved to be enough to stop someone who has attained an armament of writing and a profound sense of justice and morality. If freedom is a price to pay to make a soul stirs, he did it. He continues to write bringing the reality of some obscure places present on this same blue-green planet.

And I still want to write, write, write because it’s my passion and my resistance. And in order to write, I need to plunge my hands into reality, to cover myself in it, to smell its odor and its sweat, and to not live quarantined in a hyperbolic chamber inside military barracks — today here, tomorrow two hundred kilometers away, moved like a package without knowing what happened and what can happen. A perennial state of bewilderment and insecurity keeps me from thinking, reflecting, concentrating on what I have to do. Sometimes I surprise myself thinking these words: I want my life back. I silently repeat them, one by one, to myself.

Author: Jashan Kaur

Jashan Kaur is a writer and blogger who covers art, culture, poetry, society, and history for publications. She is experienced in social-marketing and site designing. Currently a high-school student, she is planning to major in psychology pursuing her love for creativity, human mind, and behavior.

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