Review: The Ring + The Opposite of Death, By Roberto Saviano (trs Abigail Asher)
A powerful and poetic volume of ‘fictional reportage’ on the infamous Camorra
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books 2013, and the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014.
Saturday 23 November 2013
Roberto Saviano has lived in hiding since Gomorrah, his 2006 exposé of the Camorra which became a bestseller and landed him a fatwa-like sentence from the Mafioso bosses he was exposing.
Yet he has not relented in his courageous campaign and subsequent works have circled the same question of how the Neapolitan mafia holds the Southern region in its tight, tyrannical grip.
All roads lead back to the insidious, omipresent threat of vengeance and calculated thuggery that lies behind the Camorra’s organised crime in this slim volume, comprised of two short, stand-alone pieces which read like fiction but are reconstructed realities of sorts; the book jacket calls it “fictional reportage”.
Here the Camorra is the ultimate bully, forcing communities into collusion, if only through their fearful silence and passivity. The stories shift in perspective but revolve around the experiences of two women – a reporter who is the visiting ‘outsider’ in a Southern town in the first story, and in the second, a 17-year-old widow-bride of a man who enlists to fight the war in Afghanistan in order to escape the the mafia, but gets killed before he can get to the altar. This woman, Maria, is the suffering ‘insider’. In fact, all who live in these Southern towns must suffer, it seems. While in Gomorrah Saviano showed us the larger matrix of the mafia’s business connections, here, life in small-scale is held up to study. Shame alongside silent indignation infuses those who live in these towns, holding their curses of the Camorra – how it controls and destroys their community by turns– under their breath for fear of the always brutal outcome. Italy’s North-South divide is a related theme and is evocatively caught in the opening story: a bunch of flowers by the roadside is mistaken as a poignant mark for a road death by the Northerner, when the Southerner knows it to be the spot where “people had been shot, taken out, bumped off.” The South, across this book, is also a place of permanent mourning and permanent war, so much so that “more than half of the Italian war dead are from the South”.
The fictional reportage is not without fault. At times, it strays into polemic and rhetorical speechifying, quite forgetting the fiction part. It is as if Saviano breaks out in a sweat, and shouts his outrage, before continuing the story. Overall, the material, at 75 pages and two stories that could easily have been part of a larger collection, is powerful, but slight.
Order at the discounted price of £9 inc. p&p from independent.co.uk/bookshop or call 0843 0600 030
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 4 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
- 5 Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...
£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...
£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...