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Roberto Saviano: The PEN/ Pinter Honoree of the Courage Award
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Roberto Saviano: The PEN/ Pinter Honoree of the Courage Award

Picture of Illaria Mallozzi
Updated: 29 January 2016
Robert Saviano is an Italian writer and journalist. Described by writer Umberto Eco as a ‘national hero’ because of the publication of Gomorrah, which describes the illicit individuals of the Camorra business, he shares in an interview his acquaintance with invisible prisons.
Roberto Saviano

Known as a playwright, poet and actor of great influence, Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005. Three years later he died on the 24th of December, after having performed Samuel Beckett’s monologue Krapp’s Last Tape, whose most striking line is certainly ‘You have to find the wrong path that suits you best’. The wrong path makes each person different and unique. It can make each person able to challenge the world and society through literature, politics and life. This was surely part of Pinter’s artistic career and legacy, and this is the reason why in 2009 International PEN created the PEN/Pinter Prize. In 2011 the Italian writer Roberto Saviano was named winner of the PEN/Pinter international writer of courage award, chosen by the British playwright David Hare, a previous recipient of the prize.

Born in 1979 in Naples, Roberto Saviano is a courageous writer whose work highlights the true exposing power of Literature. In 2006 Saviano released Gomorrah, a book that explored the organised crime industry in his home town of Naples. Revealing information that had until then remained a secret from the public, Saviano’s bold actions made him a hero to some and a enemy to many others. Since the book’s release, Saviano has received multiple death treats and has lived with permanent police escorts for protection.

Reflecting on the honour of receiving the PEN/Pinter Prize, Saviano told of his respect for Pinter. Saviano described one event that greatly influenced Pinter’s writing, when his friends took him to a very remote corner of a London park and left him there. It was to make him understand that dating a friend’s girlfriend was a mistake that required a symbolic and exemplary punishment. ‘Uncertain and afraid’, like Auden in his poem September 1, 1939, young Pinter stood there until it got dark. Then in the obscurity of the night, he went home. That event changed Pinter irrevocably; he said that he thought constantly of it throughout his career, considering it a crucial aspect of his writing. Invisible prisons are stronger than material ones. You cannot escape them and, at the same time, the warder is part of yourself, through your language, nationality, social status and ideas.

In addition, the event caused Pinter to question the relationship between literature and politics, and consequently to whether the role that writers should not undertake in the public sphere. Recently intellectuals are considered to be quite uninterested in combining literature with politics. The importance and implications of Saviano’s and Hare’s works seems to show the opposite. It may be because invisible prisons are now more visible than before, or simply because, as Pinter had learnt through his personal experience and as Saviano’s experience was so tragic, it is better not to wait until it gets dark to get out of them.

Watch an interview with Roberto Saviano Below:

By Ilaria Mallozzi

Image courtesy: piero tasso/WikiCommons