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Gomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia Hardcover – Import, January 1, 2008
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- Publisher : Macmillan (January 1, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 424 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0230017762
- ISBN-13 : 978-0230017764
- Item Weight : 1.24 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.14 x 1.06 x 9.21 inches
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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With my busy schedule running a business, these days it's hard for me to take some time and read a book in a short time. However, this book was so compelling I finished it in four days.
There are three big criminal organizations in Italy: Cosa Costra (commonly known as Mafia) from Sicily, Ngrangheta of Calabria, and the Camorra of Campania. This book is about the camorra.
First, to answer one of the reviewers from Australia who didn't understand why the author is under 24-hour police protection: This is not the first book written about the camorra or the mafia, in Italy or abroad. However, his story telling style was compelling enough to make the book a best seller in Italy and abroad. This brought to light the dirty and dark secrets of the criminal underworld in a concrete term - something you can identify with (do they control what you eat?), it infuriates you and something you react strongly. It's not just about talking about the camorra in abstract terms, but to name names, name places, and describe in vivid details about the people, their "businesses", and places. So the public realize the extent of the problem and how it affects the smallest things like milk and cookie delivery to cancer rates.
Organized crime societies thrive on secrecy and silence; there is a term for silence among the camorra: "omerta". If no one speaks about it and carry on with his life, or speaks about it in an abstract term like "oh it's the mafia what can I do about it?" then the camorra carries on their activities. However, with the amount of attention the author brought, especially attention to details, angered the criminals because the public gets a real view of how the system functions and is lubricated. Hence they want the author dead. He broke the code of "omerta". That's why police protection is assigned to him.
Remember, if you dare to speak up against their interest, they dare to silence you in the most callous way - school teacher, shop owner, ex-member, judge, lawyer, politicians, it doesn't matter. The book shows that while claiming to be Catholics, the Camorra is even willing to take the life of a priest.
To the other reader who said that the author was trying to make money, I doubt the author made enough money to be worth of numerous death threats and constant police protection.
I lived in that region. In fact, where I lived had its government dissolved more times than any other places in Italy due to mafia infiltration. I have seen around here urban planning disaster, environmental disaster, and cultural disaster. While the region of Campania has some beautiful parts, it is not far fetched to say it's a third world country within a major EU country.
This book explores many subjects that I have witnessed with my own eyes: the annual garbage crisis where you can't even walk on the sidewalk, and the hoodlums and idiots who set the trashes on fire to worsen the crisis; the store that was burned down because the owner was courageous and refuse to pay the Camorra a "protection" fee; the unjustifiable number of supermarkets and shopping centers in a region where the economy at the bottom.
I have been to Pozzuoli, dined in Quatieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter), and it's true, many of these towns are a mess. This book helped to see what the towns are the way they are, beyond the aesthetical aspect. I didn't know about the open drug market where the Camorra test new drug on buyers to see if they die to determine the right mix. The economy is in the drain, but new shopping centers keep popping up. Will those women who tried to kill each other with guns live long enough to shop there?
For the young men, is it a choice among a low-paying dead end job, constant unemployment and becoming someone "important" by joining the Camorra? "For many women, marrying a Camorrista is like receiving a loan or acquiring capital. If that capital will bear fruit and the women will become entrepreneurs, managers, or generals' wives, wielding unlimited power." (P.141)
This book should be a wake up call to all the people of Campania, Italians and an alarm for the rest of us. It shows if the social and economic situation in a community is dire, and when the legitimate system is weak and severely flawed, even a small group of people, with their selfish and corruptible nature, can easily turn life into hell for the majority. You don't have to have even visited Italy to appreciate this book. Civil society is fragile and this book shows how hard it is to get rid a social cancer once its takes root.
Camorra thrives because the State has failed its citizens; it provides opportunities and illusions of power and wealth. To quote the book "The system at least grants the illusion that commitment will be recognized, that it's possible to make a career. An affiliate will never be seen as an errand boy, and girls will never feel they are being courted by a failure" (P. 109, The Secondigliano War)
I also recommend "See Naples and Die: Camorra and Organized Crime" and "Excellent Cadavers" to get a better look at the history of Camorra and Cosa Nostra (Silician Mafia) and a broader political perspective to understand the State and the mafia have at many times different sides of the same coin who needs each other to thrive.
Saviano does a great job of painting the depth of the corruption and the influence of the Camorra. It is incomprehensible just how deeply embedded organized crime is in this area(it is the most violent area in Europe). At times, I was in disbelief at the levels of lawlessness that you almost feel the only solution is a peace keeping deployment from the UN -- or other military solution. The names of the thugs and their bosses are irrelevant since when one is killed or "sings", others just take their place.
The last chapter of the book left me incredulous as Saviano details the environmental catastrophe the Camorra is inflicting upon the region serving as the conduit for illegal dumping of toxic waste in the region.
The sheer courage of Saviano to "infiltrate" the Camorra and expose how deep and dire the situation, the inability of the regional, local or national governments to stem the havoc being wreaked upon the region.
While I found this a really fascinating book, I have a couple of criticisms:
I felt the translation was pretty poor and left me frustrated at points with how choppy the language was.
Not being from Italy, Saviano outlines a dizzying array of names. while this undoubtedly part of the reaon the book has been a sensation in Italy and caused Saviano to go into hiding, the lack of familiarity for a non-Italian means you'll be left scratching your head over all the names being thrown around in this book.
Overall, a good read for someone interested in how organized crime is choking a country and adversely affecting the global economy.
The Camorra he describes seems to have two components--a violent, vicious killing machine to enforce its rule and get its way. The other part is that of a commercial empire using its originally ill gotten gains to finance and capitalize a range of mostly legitimate businesses. Of course there are the illegal businesses--such as the drug trade. And even some of the "legitimate" businesses are only quasi-legitimate--high quality knockoffs or counterfeit fashion articles.
The books was originally published in ~2005 or 2006. So in that regard it's dated, but I don't doubt that the Camorra Version 2018 isn't all that much different from the Camorra Version 2006.
Top reviews from other countries
I appreciate this is to an extent nature of 'mafiosi' but severe pruning would have told the same story better.
Also he has a descriptive mind and that's good but some of the similies and metaphors were hard to grasp if you don't know the region or subjects as well as he.
You do get an overall impression of how ingrained and intractable organised crime is in Southern Italy and increasingly Eastern Europe. The scale and ingenuity of these crime families and their grip on and their significance to the Italian economy is much more shocking than their violence- to read about that is!
The book offers no solutions, no real study of the politics of how things came to this. The view is that's how things are in the South and there you go. I found myself asking 'so what' in the end.
It highlights lots of very big problems but didn't even attempt to analyse any solutions.
Although the structure of the book is excellent, thematic and engaging, the writing style is oddly poetic and verging on self indulgent. Some of the philosophical asides begin to grind after a while and seem patronising at times. This could be a result of a bad translation, or possible Saviano does indeed write in this style, either way it detracts from what is a well researched, disturbing and engaging read.