Beauty and the Inferno

Roberto Saviano, Author, Oonagh Stranksy, Translator
Roberto Saviano, trans. From the Italian by Oonagh Stransky. Verso (Norton, dist.), $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-84467-950-8
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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This book collects Italian journalist Saviano's writings from the years following his 2006 Gomorrah, a landmark expose of the Camorra mafia whose publication forced him into hiding and even periodically required him to live in police barracks. The subjects of these essays range from cocaine to concrete, but nearly all Saviano's writing is filtered through the lens of mafia activity in Italy. The book also contains some excellent sports writing and several fine character studies. These feel out of place among Saviano's more political work, but his interest is always passionate, and his commitment to his subjects draws the reader in. Saviano also writes feelingly of his own struggle to adapt to the restrictions that keep him safe in his post-Gomorrah life. He is clearly outraged at what he regards as the complacency of Italian society in the face of the mafia activity, and the resulting essays are often vivid calls to action. He champions integrity—artistic, personal, and political—and his commitment to truth and to honoring his subjects is compelling. Some sentences run long and border on overwrought, but this may reflect the difficulty of translation more than anything else. Regardless of occasional dips in the quality of the prose, this is a strong collection from a brave and keen-eyed reporter. (Sept.)
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