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Gomorrah – The Book and the Film

Roberto Saviano’s almost surreal book about the Italian camorra mafia of Naples has been made into a film.  I’ve seen the film, and I’m reading the book.

Roberto Saviano
Roberto Saviano

Both are shocking, and make you wonder just how Italy’s mafia problem has got so out of hand.

Actually, I was interested to see how Saviano’s book had been turned into a film, seeing as it is a patchwork of accounts relating to Saviano’s own experiences, which are mixed in with related events and many other bits and mafia related bobs.  Not really the stuff of a great plot.

Show Gomorrah in Italy’s Schools

Despite the fact that the film has an odd plot, Gomorrah the film should be shown in every Italian school in the hope that the glamour which surrounds Italy’s mafia is diminished.  The film, like the book, is brutal.

Indeed, the film is a patchwork quilt of events from the book of the same name, only the order in which these events appear in the film is a little different from they order in which things unfold in the book.

Those who have read the book will, as I did, recognise fragments from Saviano’s written account.  However just how extensively the camorra mafia has wheedled itself into to very fabric of modern Italy is not as clear from the film as it is from the book.

Hazy Boundaries

At times it is difficult to know just what has not become a part of the mafia business empire, and the boundaries between what is legitimate and what is not are hazy to say the least.  As a direct result of reading the book and seeing the film, I’ve become a little wary of food products originating from the areas in which the camorra operate.  These people are unscrupulous and would not bat an eyelid at the thought of adulterating food, even if, like the best businessmen, they know that dead customers cannot be profited from.

On the other hand the mafia is a major employer with a veritable army of workers.  However in mafia terms, being fired for non-performance of duties can have quite a literal meaning.

Saviano’s book and film certainly give this reader the impression that Italy has bred one heck of a ruthless organisation which thinks nothing of doing away with all who stand in their way.  I suppose this is not news, especially for Italians who have known just how deadly the mafia can be for a long, long time.

God’s Troopers

The other thing that hit me, from the book but not the film, is that the mafia believe that they a a form of God’s troopers and that despite little things like the 10 commandments, killing is no different from sticking the price on goods.  This comes across as being very odd in a country which just about doubles as the head of that well known moralist organisation otherwise known as the Roman Catholic church, which, it must be said, tends to remain remarkably quiet on the subject of Italy’s other businessmen.

Oh, some members of the RC church have tried to intervene, but have given their lives as a result as is evident from an incident mentioned in the book.

Is it Cool to be a Mafia Boss?

The book then begs the question, for this reader, just what benefits mafia bosses actually obtain.  Once they have been identified by the police, which does seem to happen pretty frequently, at least this is the impression the book gives, the bosses and most of their family have to go underground, and become afraid to show their faces in public.  The vast wealth these people accumulate cannot then be exploited, which is why presumably some do try to shed their mafia skins.

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Once you are in the mafia though, removing yourself can prove to be nigh on impossible, and those that do try to escape are labeled as traitors and often come to bloody ends.

This leads to another question which came to mind after reading most of the book:

Who is behind the Mafia?

Certainly Saviano gives the impression that some of Italy’s most powerful businessmen seem to have formed unholy alliances with the mafia, which is no real surprise for there are boatloads of money to be made.  Then again it must be quite easy to get caught up with the mafia here.  Imagine for a moment this scenario: An appetising business deal draws in the unsuspecting or naive businessman, he or she signs along the dotted line and the trap is sprung.  An agreement is formed.  Breach of contract is life threatening.  And by the time some have realised just what they have done, it may well be too late.

It’s not just businessmen either, for a few of Italy’s politicians at both local and national level are rumoured to be either cooperating or assisting in the proliferation of Italy’s under economy.  And at times Italy seems to be able to magically find sums of money from who knows where.

The left hand may give the impression that it does not know what the right hand is doing, but that it all it is, an impression.  It could be argued that there are those who do not wish Italy’s south to be pulled from the doldrums, for to do so would mean the loss of a vast source of income.  Income which is probably being used to create the legitimate business which fuel Italy’s economy and keep a large portion of its population in work.

An Alternative Theory

The influence which the mafia exerts on Italy may also be the reason why things are kept inefficient.  For some keeping Italy as it is may well be in their best interests.

On the subject of interests, strangely enough, I know a couple of people who believe that Saviano’s work is little more than a put up job, in that these people cannot understand precisely why someone would put himself in such extreme danger.  This is an odd opinion, unless one considers that perhaps Saviano was sponsored by one of Italy’s other mafias to expose the camorra and in so doing initiate the removal of competition which is not appreciated in certain circles.  Thinking about this, the book does make mention of the fact that the camorra has become autonomous, perhaps too independant for the tastes of some.

To add a little weight to this theory it is perhaps Interesting to note that the publisher behind Saviano’s book is Mondadori, which happens to have one Marina Berluconi as its president.

Does’t Marina’s dad Silvio often manage to garner most of the election votes from that little island also known for Italy’s oldest and well known mafia, Sicily?

Pure coincidences?  Possibly, but in a society as Machiavellian as Italy, the truth is quite often stranger than fiction.

Solving the Problem

Will the mafia problem ever be eliminated from Italy?  This is doubtful, at least without external intervention of some form or another, even if people within Italy like Interior Minster Roberto Maroni are attempting to tackle the issue by attempting to sap the mafia of its life blood by sucking away its assets and giving them back to the people.  It is possible that Roberto Maroni may come to a sticky end, or so one of my friend’s believes.

This tactic may work, as at the end of the day, mafia business is fundamentally the same as any other business in that: Cash is King.

Buy your copy of Gomorrah from Amazon – it’s well worth reading:
Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System
Blog from Italy receives commission on products purchased though Amazon.com. If you do make a purchase, thank you.

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