When internationally acclaimed author Roberto Saviano heard the mafia wanted him dead by Christmas, he was forced to make the toughest decision of his life: leave his native homeland. The 29-year-old author of the bestselling exposé chronicling the daily affairs of the Neapolitan mob, the Camorra, has already been paying a high price for the book's international successes. Saviano has been in hiding and under police protection since 2006, when his book, Gomorrah, was first published in Italy.
Saviano knew he would become a target of the mafia's fury. However, he never imagined that he would have to leave Italy, his life and his loved ones, until a mafia informant tipped off the police. Although the informant subsequently retracted his confession, Saviano decided to leave Italy ‘for a period of time'. ‘I would like to be with my friends, to be able to laugh, and stop talking about myself as if I were terminally ill', the author told La Repubblica in an interview.
Saviano will have to search hard to find such a place, said Indian writer Salmon Rushdie, who was marked for death for his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. ‘Without doubt, he'll have to leave Italy but he must choose his future destination very prudently', Rushdie said, warning that the mafia has a strong presence in other countries as well.
From the president of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, to a long list of Nobel Prize winners, 200,000 people have already expressed their solidarity by signing a petition imploring the Italian government to protect Saviano. ‘He has been threatened on several fronts: on his freedom and autonomy, his ability to see his family and have any sort of social life, to take part in public life and move about in his country'.
Gomorrah, which has been published in 43 countries, was made into a movie that took second place at the Cannes film festival this year. It is a contender for the 2009 Oscar awards.