Save Italian writer Roberto Saviano

Morten Hoi Jensen

Roberto Saviano, the Italian writer and journalist, has lived under constant police protection since the publication of his non-fiction book Gomorrah in 2006, due to his fierce criticism of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. In October, the threats to Saviano’s life became far more serious as the Camorra reportedly vowed to kill Saviano by Christmas this year, prompting the young writer to consider fleeing his home country.

On Oct. 20, six Nobel Prize-winning authors and public figures wrote a petition urging the Italian government to guarantee the protection of Saviano. Other notable individuals have since signed the petition, including Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Jonathan Safran Foer, Lech Walesa and Martin Scorscese. The English novelist Ian McEwan, who also added his name to the list, said recently in The Guardian that he makes no distinction between the Camorra and certain extremist religious groups, “which try to close down discussions with threats of violence.”

As a result of the controversy, Saviano has been called the new Salman Rushdie, the celebrated Indo-British novelist who spent nine years in hiding following the publication of his brilliant novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie, however, claimed that Saviano’s situation might turn out to be far worse than his own. The two writers met earlier this year at the PEN World Voices festival, where Rushdie offered words of support and advice to his younger colleague.

I urge everyone to join in the efforts to support Roberto Saviano and pressure the Italian government to ensure its protection of him. I recommend you sign the online petition at La Repubblica’s website, the link for which you can find by joining my Facebook group, “Support Roberto Saviano!” I also encourage everyone to go and buy his book Gomorrah (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25, paperback released later this month).

Lastly, I am looking for supporters to help arrange a rally next week to show support for Saviano and writers everywhere who are jailed and/or threatened for exercising their right of free speech. Anyone interested in making this happen can reach me at or via the Facebook group.

Make a stand against all ideologies, religions and organizations that allow themselves to dictate what can or cannot be said, written or expressed. Literature is freedom, including the freedom to piss off, disturb, offend, outrage and expose without having to fear for one’s life.