Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah, the bestselling exposé of the criminal activities of the Camorra, has won the English PEN/Pinter International Writer of Courage Award.
Established in 2009 in memory of the playwright Harold Pinter, the prize is awarded annually to a British writer or a writer resident in Britain of outstanding literary merit who, in the words of Harold Pinter's Nobel speech, casts an 'unflinching, unswerving' gaze upon the world, and shows a 'fierce intellectual determination …to define the real truth of our lives and our societies'. The prize is always shared with an International Writer of Courage, chosen by the winner of the main prize from a shortlist of writers selected for their determination and bravery in speaking truth to power, despite the very real risks they face.
The British writer honoured this year was Sir David Hare, who said, at the awards ceremony held in London on 10 October:
‘Roberto Saviano took on the Neapolitan mafia, first in his book, Gomorrah, and then in the film made from it. He did so at great risk to his own safety. My hope in sharing my prize with him is that a measure of recognition from Pen may, in however small a way, make his life easier.’
As a consequence of the book's outstanding success and of its uncompromising attack on organized crime, Roberto Saviano received a number of serious death threats that obliged the Italian authorities to provide him with 24-hour police protection. Since October 2006 he has lived in hiding and was therefore unable to attend the event. However, he sent a statement, in which he said:
"When you feel that so many need to see, to know and to change, and not just to be entertained or comforted, then it is worth it to carry on writing,"
Gomorrah has been a bestseller throughout the world, selling over 2 million copies in Italy alone.
Pan Macmillan reissued the paperback of Gomorrah, with a striking new jacket, on 4 November 2012.