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Gomorrah 'wasn't worth it', Saviano tells El Pais

'Could end up in psychiatric hospital' says anti-mafia writer

17 February, 16:59
Gomorrah 'wasn't worth it', Saviano tells El Pais (ANSA) - Rome, February 17 - Roberto Saviano said Monday his acclaimed book that lifted the lid on the Neapolitan Camorra mafia had not been worth it because of death threats that have forced him into hiding and led him to fear for his sanity.

Saviano, who has been in round-the-clock police protection since Gomorra (Gomorrah) came out in 2006, told Spanish daily El Pais the sensational bestselling exposé that focused on the then little-known and particularly ferocious Casalesi clan "ruined my life" and he regretted the "ambition" that made him write it.

The 34-year-old Naples-born writer said he could have revealed the inner workings of the Camorra's empire "with the same commitment and courage but with prudence, without destroying everything".

"I was too impetuous, too ambitious".

Gomorra, the Bible's sin city which plays on the word Camorra, won universal plaudits when it was published, with the New York Times calling the 2007 English translation, Gomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia "the most important book to come out of Italy in years".

It was turned into a film by director Matteo Garrone which won second prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Its global sales have since topped 10 million, in 54 languages.

All the while Saviano was moving secretly with his police escort, making sporadic appearances on Italian TV and at international book fests as mobsters queued up to execute Casalesi 'hit' orders.

After his warnings about the Camorra, which prompted ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi to call him unpatriotic, the writer and journalist highlighted the spread of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia, especially in the affluent north, sparking the ire of Northern League bigwig Roberto Maroni.

A string of probes later proved Saviano right, illustrating the connections of Italy's richest mafia to businessmen and politicians around Milan.

Saviano has long complained about living under a mafia fatwah.

As early as October 2008, he said he wanted to leave Italy to return to some semblance of normality, a day after learning the Casalesis planned to blow him up by Christmas. "F**k success. I want my life back," he told La Repubblica daily.

Saviano, who in 2011 won the PEN/Pinter and Olof Palme awards for writers who have faced the highest risks to get at dangerous truths, has opted to stay in Italy but his life under guard has ground him down further, he told El Pais.

He now seems much closer to the end of his tether, despite support from Noble prize winners including Orhan Pamuk, Dario Fo, the late Rita Levi-Montalcini, Desmond Tutu, Günter Grass and Mikhail Gorbachev who urged the Italian government to help him lead a more normal life.

"I wouldn't write (Gomorra) again. And I know when I say that, some people might reply: what a coward. It's worth seeking truth and getting to the bottom of things, but protecting yourself while you do it.

"You have to realise I can't do anything without asking for authorisation. I can't go out or come back when I want to meet people I want without concealing them for fear of reprisal.

"Sometimes I wonder if I'll end up in a psychiatric hospital," Saviano told El Pais.

"Seriously," he insisted. "I now need (anti-depression) pills to carry on, and that hadn't happened before. I'm not abusing them but I sometimes need them. And I don't like that one little bit. That's why I hope this is going to end, sooner or later" "If you put the truth, an exposé, before more important things in your life, you become a monster. A monster".