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Gomorrah: A Personal Journey Into The Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System (2006)

by Roberto Saviano

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,800925,026 (3.63)22
A major bestseller in Italy, this is a heroic young man's impassioned account of the decline of Naples under the rule of the Camorra, an organized crime network with a large international reach and stakes in construction, high fashion, illicit drugs, and toxic-waste disposal. Known by insiders as "the System," the Camorra affects cities and villages along the Neapolitan coast, and is the deciding factor in why Campania, for instance, has the highest murder rate in all of Europe and why cancer levels there have skyrocketed in recent years. Author Saviano, who saw his first murder at age 14, worked under cover to investigate the Camorra's control of Chinese factories contracted to manufacture fashion goods, legally and illegally, for distribution around the world, and relates how the abusive handling of toxic waste is causing devastating pollution not only for Naples but also China and Somalia.--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

English (53)  Italian (15)  Spanish (5)  Portuguese (3)  German (3)  Dutch (3)  Norwegian (2)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Polish (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
"In the land of the Camorra, knowing the clans' mechanisms for success, their modes of extraction, their investments, means understanding how everything works today everywhere, not merely here."

With this "J'accuse" Roberto Saviano closes out his encyclopaedia of mob violence, control and conquest of the small crime territory around Naples.

Except he isn't just talking about Naples.

He is talking about the web of criminal syndicates from China to South America. They start with their gains from drugs, extortion, and prostitution and swiftly move into "legitimate" industries of fashion, construction, retail, and other manifestations of money laundering.

They move massive amounts of arms and fabrics, cement, and even toxic waste around Europe and the world.

The trail of corruption extends far beyond even the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia.

I've come from reading about the Bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu who struggled to save 377,000 precious medieval books and manuscripts from Al-Qaeda bad men. Terrorists in name, hoodlums bent on kidnapping, drug running, and smuggling to finance their causes.

And the dismantling of government oversight in Louisiana where chemical processors dump tons of toxic waste into the bayou, in Arlie Russell Hochschild's "Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right."

Svetlana Alexievich tracks much of the same criminal mentality in "Secondhnad Time: The Last of the Soviets" except in this great book it is Russia and some of the former Soviet republics. And Bill Browder traces the same sense of entitlement Putin's bureaucrats show in stealing massive amounts from the public purse in "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice." Then from Russian pockets millions, if not billions get laundered into New York, London, and Hong Kong real estate.

Saviano's book starts with the cancerous effects of organized crime in the fibre of society. In Naples, where many of the poor don't know where to start, the Camorra give them their start: pinching goods from warehouses, working in construction gangs, moving sewage.

Then it gives them one step up on the rest.

Young people gain their confidence and learn that might makes right from the bottom to the top of society.

As cash washes through the system it makes governing Southern Italy virtually impossible. So too does it make international trade difficult to police where Chinese goods are getting smuggled into knock-off factories ipoutside of Naples and Rome. Where tons of Europe's waste get re-purposes into fertilizer, and landfill sites become new housing developments.

This in a landscape of massive migration from war zones and famine in Africa to Europe and beyond.

Take the lid off the Soviet empire and you get worse than a pail of worms. You get an absolutely rotten society set on a pace to destroy the land and set civilization on its head. Or perhaps I should have said that the end of the Soviet Empire let us refocus on what really was going on in the world. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
Roberto Saviano’s exposé on the Camorra clans was very much a mixed bag for me. Like most works of nonfiction, there are essentially two processes that lead to the final text. The process of research and the process of writing. Anyone who has read this book, or knows about this book, will agree that it is not the research that is lacking. Saviano has delved deep into the criminal underworld born in his home region, but as his book shows, is present everywhere on our planet. He engaged, interviewed and worked alongside insiders, and recorded everything. “I know and I can prove it”.
I say this, because if it was the research I was rating, it would be impossible to give anything but the maximum score. However, as a book, a text to read, it occasionally falls short.

Many parts of the book are absolutely enthralling. Especially when Saviano is writing from his own experience, the things he witnessed with his own eyes are gripping and turn Gomorrah into a page turner. Many other parts of the book, however, deal with larger concepts, an analysis of the economics of Europe and beyond that Camorra activity directly influences, and even shapes. Though a necessary aspect to shed light on to understand the unfathomable scale of their reach, some passages really do grind the narrative to a halt. Long lists of names of prominent criminals, that of course mean something to Saviano, but are often never mentioned again. The same goes for lists of towns where, for example, municipal governments have been abdicated for having ties to the Mafia, and lists of investigations by the authorities. Perhaps a more extensive use of footnotes could have solved this, but I also feel like the book is either too short or too long. Cutting some of these passages out would have led to a more streamlined introduction, while expanding them with a more extensive analysis of sources might have made it a definitive overview book of Camorra activity at the turn of the twenty-first century. As it stands, it is a bit of neither.

Saviano’s writing style can sometimes work well, but his similes and musings, to me, sometimes fall flat. They sometimes turn this gritty, no nonsense exposé into what seems like an attempt at modern literature. Some of this may be a result of the translation process into English, but often they seem to go somewhere, only to go off the rails a little too much. One of the worst offenders, to me, is the opening passage of the fifth chapter, Women:
‘It was as if I had an indefinable odor on me. Like the smell that permeates your clothing when you go to one of those fried-food places. When you leave, the smell gradually becomes less noticeable, blending with the poison of car exhaust, but it’s still there. You can take countless showers, soak for hours in heavily perfumed bath salts and oils, but you can’t get rid of it. And not because - like the sweat of a rapist - it has penetrated your flesh, but because you realize it was already inside you. As if it were emanating from a dormant gland that all of a sudden started secreting, activated more by a sensation of truth than of fear. As if something in your body were able to tell when you are staring at the truth, perceiving it with all your senses, with no mediation.’
Etcetera.

I would like to reiterate my respect for the lengths that Saviano went to document Camorra activity, risking his own life in order to expose the dark secrets all around us. For that he deserves acclaim, but as a narrative, Gomorrah does not hit all marks.
( )
  Tiborius | Jul 31, 2023 |
A terrifying and saddening look at the depth and breadth of the Neapolitan criminal clans, from fashion to gunrunning to construction to drugs to tourism to murder for hire to local government. ( )
  wt_dore | Jul 6, 2023 |
When Gomorrah was firt published, it was risky investigative journalism at its finest; Saviano revealed to Italians and to the wider world the nature and extent of the Comorra's domination of Naples, Campania and beyond.

Even the best journalism loses its immediacy over time, but after 10 years and from half a world away, Gomorrah is still a riveting read. Saviano recounts a catalogue of vicious crimes and ongoing feuds that turned Campania into a bloodbath, pretty much the murder capital of the world. As well as their drug and extortion actvities, Saviano explains how the bosses extended their tentacles into the more legitimate business world, coming to dominate the garment and construction industries, waste management and others. Their ruthlessness enables them to spread beyond Italy to Eastern Europe, China and the UK.

The book starts off fairly matter-of-fact, but you gradually sense the author's mounting rage against the system,spilling out in a chapter where he points his finger and sets his face against the clans. They took him seriously - he's needed government protection since publication - and we should too. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
9788483468463
  archivomorero | Jun 27, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (25 possible)

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Roberto Savianoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jewiss, VirginiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Comprehension. . .means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality—whatever it may be.

- Hannah Arendt
Κατανόησε τι σημαίνει φρικαλεότητα, μην αρνείσαι την ύπαρξη της, αντιμετώπισε χωτίς προκατα
λήψεις την πραγματικότητα.
ΧΑΝΝΑ ΑΡΕΝΤ
Winners have no shame, no matter how they win.
- Niccolo Machiavelli
Εκείνοι που νικούν με όποιο τρόπο κι αν νικούν, δε νιώθουν ποτέ ντροπή. ΝΙΚΚΟΛΟ ΜΑΚΙΑΒΕΛΛΙ
People are worms and they have to stay worms.
- from a wiretapped conversation
Dedication
To S., damn it
Σε σένα Σ., ανάθεμα
First words
Το κοντέϊνερ ταλαντευοταν καθώς ο γερανός το μετέφερε στο πλοίο.
The container swayed as the crane hoisted it onto the ship.
Quotations
Το να επενδύσεις μια σύνταξη των εξακοσίων ευρώ στην κόκα σημαίνει να πάρεις πίσω ύστερα από ένα μήνα τα διπλά. Οι φατρίες της Καμόρρα είχαν κατορθώσει να διευρύνουν τον κύκλο των επενδυτικών τους κεφαλαίων , εμπλέκοντας ακόμη και μικροαστική τάξη που απείχε με από εγκληματικούς μηχανισμούς αλλά είχε κουραστεί να εμποιοστεύεται τα αγαθά της στην τράπεζα.
Αυτή είναι η νέα εποχή των εγκληματικών οργανώσεων. Αυτή είναι η νέα ισχύς της οικονομίας: να υπερισχύεις με οποιοδήποτε κόστος.
Η εγκληματικότητα δεν είναι εξουσία, αλλά μία από τις εξουσίες.
Προσπαθούσα να καταλάβω αν τα ανθρώπινα συναισθήματα ήταν σε θέση να αντιμετωπίσουν μια τόσο μεγάλη εξουσία.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A major bestseller in Italy, this is a heroic young man's impassioned account of the decline of Naples under the rule of the Camorra, an organized crime network with a large international reach and stakes in construction, high fashion, illicit drugs, and toxic-waste disposal. Known by insiders as "the System," the Camorra affects cities and villages along the Neapolitan coast, and is the deciding factor in why Campania, for instance, has the highest murder rate in all of Europe and why cancer levels there have skyrocketed in recent years. Author Saviano, who saw his first murder at age 14, worked under cover to investigate the Camorra's control of Chinese factories contracted to manufacture fashion goods, legally and illegally, for distribution around the world, and relates how the abusive handling of toxic waste is causing devastating pollution not only for Naples but also China and Somalia.--From publisher description.

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