Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano’s 2006 exposé of Naples’s Camorra mafia, was an international bestseller and became an award-winning film. But the death threats that followed forced the author into hiding. Saviano was ostracized by his countrymen and went on the run, changing his location every few months and compelled to keep perpetual company with his bodyguards. To this day, he lives in an undisclosed location.
The loneliness of the fugitive life informs all the essays in Beauty and the Inferno, Saviano’s first book since Gomorrah. Among other subjects, he writes about the legendary South African jazz singer Miriam Makeba, his meeting with the real-life Donnie Brasco, sharing the Nobel Academy platform with Salman Rushdie, and the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Present throughout the book is a sense of Saviano’s peculiar isolation, which infuses his words with anger, exceptional insight and tragedy.
Hardback, 288 pages
$24.95 / $26.50CAN
American banks have profited from money laundering by Latin American drug cartels, while the European debt crisis has strengthened the grip of the loan sharks and speculators who control the vast underground economies in countries like Spain and Greece.
Saviano knows a bit about organized crime: in 2006, his best-selling expose Gomorrah so angered the Italian mob the author received death threats and entered police custody. His reporting from that time, he writes, found that in the years following 9/11, crackdowns on American terrorist financing simply inspired money-laundering operations to move abroad. The European debt crisis has only further "emboldened" these endeavors. Most striking, perhaps, is the close relationship between organized crime and large financial institutions:
In 2010, Wachovia admitted that it had essentially helped finance the murderous drug war in Mexico by failing to identify and stop illicit transactions. The bank, which was acquired by Wells Fargo during the financial crisis, agreed to pay $160 million in fines and penalties for tolerating the laundering, which occurred between 2004 and 2007.
Visit the New York Times to read the interview in full.