Roberto Savianos culture wars: notes on a literary quote

Francesco Caviglia, Leonardo Cecchini

Abstract


Roberto Saviano (b. 1979), the author of bestseller Gomorrah (2007; ed. orig. 2006), is arguably the most influential contemporary Italian writer and an icon of resistance to the perceived political and moral decline of the country. This success can be understood against the background of the current state of affairs in Italy and as part of a wave of 'postmodern commitment' (Antonello & Mussgnug, 2009) among Italian artists and intellectuals. Interestingly, Saviano has earned the respect of people with different political views, which is a remarkable achievement in a country traditionally plagued by ideological division. This paper investigates the connection of form and content in Saviano's public communication by focusing on one single example that we deem representative of his poetics and politics. In a TV-show by title Dall'inferno alla bellezza [From hell to beauty], Saviano performed a two-hour long monologue focused on stories of resistance against evil. A number of the nearly three-million viewers recognized as an especially pregnant moment a story - based on Varlam Shalamov's Kolyma tale 'Prosthetic Appliances' (1994:388-391) - about a prisoner who refused to give up his soul to a guard and, in Saviano's own addition to the original text, "nearly lost his life for something that he did not even know he had" (Saviano, 2009b).

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