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The victims of the Sicilian mafia

Courage is alone
Forfatter: Robert Saviano
Forlag: Bompiani (Italia)
FALCON / A few days after Italy marked the 30th anniversary of the massacres of Judge Giovanni Falcone and his entourage and Assistant Judge Paolo Borsellino, Italian author Roberto Saviano presents a novel about the case.


On Instagram, Roberto Saviano (born in Naples, 1979) also explained why Courage is alone ("Courage is Lonely") had to become a novel. Only in this way could he save the Falcone figure from idolatry and show the people who undertook to sue Cosa Nostra. The murders in Capaci and via D'Amelio were not the only ones, but especially the murder of Falcone, his wife and three police guards is central to a novel in which Saviano states that "everything is real, facts, events, characters, I have only used my imagination to to give them life back ».

The book opens in the not unknown village of Corleone in Sicily, with a chapter called "Fuoco" (Fire). There we witness a vengeance that only the mafia boss' youngest son of twelve years will survive. Central to the book is the murder of Falcone: The 300 kilos of dynamite not only blew the car with Falcone, the spouse and the three police guards to heaven, the explosion also left a crater on the highway outside Palermo.

Gomorrah (h)

Before Saviano broke through internationally with the book Gomorrah in 2006, the mafia was synonymous with the Sicilian mafia, Cosa Nostra. In the movie Gomorrah (2008) we got ugly housing complexes, handling industrial waste from all over Europe that poisons residential areas, and revenge killings. No picturesque street pictures from Naples. The clothing style was hoodies and sweatpants with deadly weapons as accessories.

In Giudici Falcone e Borsellino

In 2017, I went to Naples with a friend, and we found a bar in the old town that was open all night. There we were served a foil with pecorino and salame al fennochio, negroni and cocaine, if we wanted, and the owner Salvatore must have measured two meters on the sock stone. The clientele were street-smart, ordinary people and pompous "girls" who showed pictures of their grandson on their mobile phones. One night she asked what we called Lila, the brilliant friend of the Ferrante Quartet, who was fresh one night and bruised the next, if we had seen Gomorrah? Salvatore was one of the stars in the TV series, which is now in its fifth season. Ferrante our Lila had not heard of: "Mo, non so lage." "Can't read," she said with a shrug. And we just had to admit that we had not seen the TV series.

Saviano: challenges politicians and killers

The death threats after Gomorrah gave Saviano police protection. The state of emergency of sleeping a maximum of three nights in the same place has become his life. Saviano himself has almost become a godfather to writers with a political angle. It is not uncommon to see one blurb on the cover of a novel he calls "the most important of the year". He is an extremely active writer. Driven and documentary, he writes in his docufiction form about young boys who are recruited to the mafia, enlist in Afghanistan, about refugees and about cocaine (Zero Zero Zero from 2013 has also become a TV series). When he criticized the Italian authorities for the country's asylum and refugee policy, the prime minister threatened to deprive him of police protection. In other words, Saviano is a writer who challenges politicians and murderers. As a kick to those who think police protection is exaggerated, he last year published the graphic autobiography I am still alive ("I'm still alive"), illustrated by Israeli Asaf Hanuka. The hero status is not a pleasant role. To The Observer, he stated in October 2021 that he felt most free when he met Julian Assange in London without an escort. And Salman Rushdie warned him in a company that "they", the audience, "will always blame you for being alive". Perhaps Umberto Eco did him a disservice when he named Saviano a "national hero" for his courage.

The Attack On The Highway Outside Palermo That Killed Falcone

Cosa Nostra

The murder on Falcone was part of what the mafia called delegitimization (delegitimization). By throwing the authorities in the mud, people were to be threatened with silence. In Sanremo on February 3 this year, Saviano said that Giovanni Falcone was probably dragged down the mud, but that his "example" was spotless.

57 days after Falcone, his colleague Paolo Purse murdered. The deputy judge had persuaded the daughter of a minor mafia boss to testify against the mafia. She trusted Borsellino's words about one day being able to walk the streets freely, decide over her own body, and was, as the country's youngest, put on a witness program. The then 17-year-old Rita Atria watched the Sanremo festival on TV in a penthouse in Rome when she heard about the murders of Borsellino and five security guards. Seven days later, Rita Atria took her own life.

Remembering the brave is not a nostalgic exercise.

Many in Palermo's "anti-mafia pool" have been killed. Rocco Chinnici of a car bomb outside the house in 1983. He was a judge in the city before Cesare Terranova and was along with the bodyguard peppered to death in 1979, on his way to work. The public prosecutor he worked with had been killed in 1971. And the judge in the case of the murder of Chinnici in 1988. And so on.

"Bringing Back to the Heart"

Sanremo is Italy's most prominent music festival. Here Saviano chose to talk about "courage like a seed". The mafia thought they had put a number of key people in the ground; instead, they planted a seed, "which is now sprouting in us." Courage is a lonely choice, and remembering is not a nostalgic exercise or passive action: it comes from the word I will remember, to lead back to the heart. In ancient times, the heart was thought to be the place to remember. To bring someone back to the heart means to reinstate them in life, to feel their pulse beat. The story of Falcone and Borsellino is a collective memory, a symbol of courage, Saviano claims, where silence only serves the mafia.

And here I sit and immerse myself in Saviano's effective prose about Siciliathe mafia, after leaving the Naples mafia, I read about a large-scale police action against the Calabria mafia, 'Ndrangheta. Twenty-four people arrested. For the first time, the headquarters have been revealed – "casa madre". Maybe they're on the radar in Saviano's next work about the Mafia?

Nordang is a new critic in MODERN TIMES, and will cover more Italian literature in the future. Among other things, she has translated Pier Paolo Pasolinis
Poetry in the form of a rose to Norwegian.

Astrid Nordang
Astrid Nordang
Nortdang is a regular literature reviewer in MODERN TIMES. Is a translator and author.

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