Roberto Saviano's non-fiction book covering mafia activities in Naples has sold more than 10m copies worldwide
Roberto Saviano, the Italian journalist whose book Gomorrah and its subsequent film and TV adaptations have seen him living under police protection for a decade, celebrated the milestone 10th anniversary yesterday by announcing to mafia bosses: “I’m still alive, you did not succeed.”
In October 2006, Saviano was informed by Italian police officers that he was being placed under protective custody after the publication of his book, an unflinching and highly detailed account of the power wielded by the Camorra organised crime syndicate in Naples, became a publishing sensation.
“When they came to pick me up, I asked ‘For how long?’” Saviano told the La Republica newspaper. “And an officer replied, ‘For a few days, I think.’”
Ten years later and the writer is still considered a potential target for Camorra mafia bosses, with a price on his head.
“It is hard to sum it all up, but above all, I want to express my gratitude to the police officers who are with me every day,” he said.
“They have become my family, often it has been their barracks which have housed me.”
Having seen sales of his book reached 10m copies worldwide, the 37-year-old Saviano added that there have been many times when he wished he could get his old life back and never written the book.
“Still, despite everything, today what I’d like to shout in their faces is: ‘You didn’t succeed. You didn’t get what you wanted.’ I have not stopped, I have not bent, even if there were times when I was in pieces.”
After a decade of police protection, the writer also revealed that Italians must come to terms with the fact that threats of violence and death are not the only things curtailing freedom of expression in the country. Having faced widespread criticism in the Italian press over his personal motives in writing Gomorrah and helping adapt the non-fiction book for the big and small screen, Saviano said that cynicism and “a culture of blackmail” permeated Italy’s media and diminished proper media scrutiny of mafia activities.
“Whoever describes organised crime, rigged tenders, money laundering knows they will become a sort of scapegoat,” Saviano said.
“It is only the merit of what they write that will be discussed, there will also be an attempt to destroy their credibility.”