Book Review: The Polemic Tradition In Nonfiction: Roberto Saviano’s “Gomorrah”

Roberto Saviano has a book out called “Gomorrah,” about the Camorra, the Neapolitan mob. I got an advance copy from Bookdwarf awhile ago. She knew when she saw it that it was exactly the sort of thing I love. It’s got crime, scandal, ecological disaster, and a heartfelt, personal touch. There’s an excerpt in the latest Granta, although it’s not online, just in print. You can also read about the author – now in hiding – in the Times from earlier this month.

He says his distaste for the criminal class in Naples is personal. That’s definitely true. In the US, getting worked up about a political issue is considered poor form these days. Critics who have point out that our president is a corrupt, criminal nincompoop are derided not for being incorrect but for being “shrill.”

Not so in Italy. In Italy, when you get furious, when you write poetry about the crimes of your fellow-citizens, they kill you. Saviano’s rage is intense. He’s got a polemic here, and I can only hope that US audiences don’t ignore it because of that. His choking rage at the destruction that criminal enterprise wreaks on his hometown should draw you in. It says: This man is serious. He’s got something important to say. Listen carefully.

You should read this book. You should buy it from the Harvard Book Store.

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