Saturday, May 28

Roberto Saviano: “Not living for fear of losing your life is unbearable. I can’t go on like this”


“Not living for fear of losing your life is unbearable”, confess Roberto Saviano from the computer screen. Behind him, some bookcases full of well-ordered books. He wears a blue shirt and a gray blazer. But bare your feelings, his anger, his frustration. And he still doesn’t bite his tongue against the Mafia, even though it has 15 years threatened with death by the Camorra, ever since he brought his dirty laundry out into the open ‘Gomorrah’, in 2006, and the bosses put a target on his head. More than 5,400 days protected by bodyguards, who accompany him even to go to throw out the garbage, with a “shitty life”, living locked up in successive dark floors for fear of snipers, traveling under false names, unable to have a stable partner or create a family… “I have to get out of here, I can’t live like this”, he cries in a calm voice.

The Neapolitan journalist and writer is waiting for you to help him ‘I’m still alive’ (Reservoir Books), his newly published comic book autobiography, drawn by the israeli Asaf Hanuka (1974), co-author of the award-winning animated documentary ‘Waltz with Bashir’. “He brings the realism and delirium I needed to tell the disaster I’ve lived through in images. I wouldn’t have been able to do it with a literary text. The comic has allowed me to keep my distance from my own story.”

Roberto Saviano. Joseph Louis Rock


“I was 26 when it all happened. Now I’m 42”continues Saviano (Naples, 1979), who has since sold ten million copies of ‘Gomorra’, made into a film by Matteo Garrone and also turned into a television series. “And in all these years what has caused me continuous stress has been having to justify myself for the fact of being alive. Hearing a terrible question from naive people: ‘If you’re the Mafia’s target, how come you’re still alive? Why haven’t you died?’ Perhaps because of the strong police protection, because of the media attention… But reasoning like this means giving power to them, that you are alive because they have granted it to you. But it’s not like that. For now I am alive. I say it in the comic. Because he might not be, he might be suspended between life and death. I’m not alive and I’m not dead.”

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Reveal in the comic bright memories, Like when he was a child he played Subbuteo with his little brother, his mother’s affection or how his father put him in the bike basket and they walked. “That scene Asaf knew how to unite it with how I felt, drawing me as a gorilla in a cage,” he illustrates. But he also evokes how they threatened to explode a car bomb in his path, sending him an explosive “panettone”, shooting him in a public act or in the bathroom of a gas station. The international success of ‘Gomorrah’ and the fact that the Mafia decided not to make him a martyr helped prevent it from materializing.

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At some point, he admits, he has been “naive”: “I had the hope that someone could save me, that there was a government, a hand, that would tell me ‘I take care of everything and little by little you will have a normal life’. But that would mean falling into that blackmail to have a normal life in exchange for keeping silent. Now I want it, not before.” Perhaps because there were moments that marked him, like when as a child, in 1991, the Mafia killed the priest Don Peppe Diana for writing a manifesto saying “I will not shut up.”

“Public opinion today does not care much if a journalist is killed in Europe”


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Saviano has never been silent either. He has not stopped writing and denouncing: ‘The opposite of death’, ‘Beauty and Hell’, ‘The Boys’ Band’, ‘ZeroZeroZero’… In the latter (also made into a series), “it was about narco-capitalism in Mexico, which is experiencing an anarcho-dictatorship,” he explains. “So many journalists are killed because of the silence of Western society. And because there are no impact films or documentaries about these murdered journalists, perhaps because they are not Americans. Public opinion today does not care much if a journalist is killed and the criminals kill him.” you know”, he regrets after remembering other reporters assassinated in Europe, where “there is a war” that he wants to explain. “Nobody is shocked that a journalist, Peter de Vries, was killed in the center of Amsterdam, or Ján Kuciak in Slovakia, or Daphne Caruana in Malta… Public opinion sees it as normal that you live with protection and surveillance. The year In the past, a capo was sentenced for the threats I received. I thought there would be a lot of international reaction and that they would say ‘the word scares organized crime’, but there were only a few articles about it. People have gotten used to it. Europe is full of mafias and whoever reveals it knows that it will be filled with mud, with complaints and they will have a shitty life.

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Faced with so much impunity, he also feels that “it is impossible to change things.” “The mafias have helped me understand capitalism because capitalism has a mafia vocation. For example, with the panama papers there was money from Queen Elizabeth but also from the godfather of the Mexican mafia Quintero. It demonstrates the criminal vocation of the system. London is today the money laundering capital of the world. Then Andorra, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Monaco, Cyprus, Malta, Holland…, trying to attract as much criminal money as possible. Why don’t intellectuals discuss this? And how is it that a fruit seller pays 60% in taxes and a millionaire only 5%? The mafias know this and defend being in the economic vanguard by dying and killing. They know they will be betrayed and stopped but also that as long as they are in charge they are the most powerful.”

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keep talking about drug dealing. “During the covid criminal organizations have begun to distribute heroin at 300% because in confinement the people who wanted it were locked up at home. How is there no discussion about it? It is said that the Taliban are Islamists and enemies of women, but they are also drug traffickers who finance themselves with heroin. Before it came from Laos, Thailand or Vietnam, today the two central ones are Afghanistan and Burma. Why doesn’t anyone mention that the drug market can be compared to the oil market? Or about the legal anti-pain drug: oxycodone epidemic It has caused 400,000 deaths. Drugs are the business of the mafias. Spain is the gateway to drugs in Europe and I have not yet heard a prime minister denouncing or denounced. It is not true that the mafia is only an Italian problem”. And Saviano congratulates himself, after reading ‘Fariña’, Nacho Carretero’s research on drug trafficking in Galicia, about how ‘Gomorrah’ has served to explain this world.

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The harassment of the ‘haters’

He reflects in this autobiography in vignettes how the ‘haters’ harass him on the networks or outside them. People that accuses him of being only interested in money, going from party to party or enjoying a penthouse in New York. “There are politically organized ‘haters’, others who hate me out of dislike. I must have a lookalike who goes to parties in my place and who has a Ferrari. I wish! -smiles bitterly-. As a child I wanted a life like that of Hemingway. I would have loved to have had a life of luxury. Instead, I live locked up at home, I have to change my last name if I travel, I camouflage myself when I go out… I stopped reading them and answering them and listening to them because they talk bullshit and use defamation to cover me in mud.”

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Saviano, who reveals that he is working on an animated film, quotes Frank Miller, Andrea Pazienza, Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman or Marjane Satrapi , in addition to Hanuka and her brother Tomer, as their comic references. “But they have also trained me Mickey Mouse, the ‘Iliad’ or ‘The Prince’, by Machiavelli“, adds who in the book shows his “wound”, he wonders when he will finally be able to allow himself to cry and take off the armor with which Hanuka draws him in a vignette. “I feel a lot of guilt because I haven’t achieved it yet. I wonder, is it because of narcissism, self-centeredness? why go on living this unhappy life, why not give up? Then I understood that because I have become attached to the ‘vendetta’, but not only from the Camorra but from the politicians: I have defamation complaints against Matteo Salvini and Georgia Meloni, Italian right-wing leaders. It is the revenge of being able to say ‘the more you have tried, the more I have resisted and I continue to speak’. Also because, for him, “resisting means continuing to keep me alive, moving forward. As the protagonist said in ‘Papillon’ when escaping from Devil’s Island: ‘Damn bastards, I’m still alive!’“.

‘I’m still alive’

Roberto Saviano and Asaf Hanuka

Translation: Charles Major

Editorial: Reservoir Books

152 pages. €19.90


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