x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Beauty and the Inferno Roberto Saviano

Authors in exile – by an man who knows his subject.

Roberto Saviano's first book, Gomorrah, was an exposé of the Neapolitan crime ring the Camorra. When it became a hit in Europe in 2006, the mafia put a price on the then-27-year-old Italian journalist's head. Even now, his life depends on a retinue of bodyguards.

If the ghost of Gomorrah haunts this new collection of vignettes, snapshots and memoirs, the title promises something slightly different: Beauty and the Inferno tries to account for the extremes of ecstasy and torment that ensued when Saviano prodded the wasp nest with his pen.

Do not expect homogeneity, he cautions early on in the book. From a chat with Salman Rushdie at the Swedish Academy and an encounter with Lionel Messi in Spain, to ruminations on the work of the Italian film director Vittorio De Seta and the revolutionary songs of South Africa's Miriam Makeba, Saviano opens up to his readership, as if anxious to tell all while he can. "I want to write without being afraid of going outside the literary margins," he says. In the end, his is a social sensibility more than an artistic one.