Investigative journalist Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah is a walk through Hieronymus Bosch’s hell, a netherworld populated by greed, ambition, murder and the economic stranglehold of the Camorra, a Mafia-like organization that controls all of southern Naples, including the Port. As intricate as the delicate network of the body’s circulation system and as many-headed as a Hydra, this self-governing, ever-changing and growing monster feasts on commerce and the marketing of illegal (counterfeit) goods and services: “Nothing is lost. Nothing is created. Everything is transformed.”
From the first chapter, where Saviano plunges into the shipping industry and the spreading tentacles of Chinese entrepreneurial investments, to the elaborate transit system that moves goods from the port, there is literally no aspect of southern Naples that remains untouched by “The System,” the Camorra more perfectly realized than the Mafia so romanticized by Hollywood. In Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System, there is no glamour - only profit, crime bosses expendable as one major family is replaced by another in an endless cycle.
As dense as the struggling population that fills the sweatshops and the network of manufacturing and dispersal of goods, the only word for such an enormous venture is saturation. From the time this investigative journalist steps into Naples via the port, he is engulfed by a massive economic enterprise that is impossible to escape. From the export of products to high-fashion houses, beneath the surface lie the twisted connections of crime and profit, so massive that government is virtually helpless to interfere.
Where there is opportunity, there is corruption, whether in a Chinese textile factory or at a construction site in one of the myriad concrete cities that sprinkle the interior with their own particular blight. In these areas, men and women emerge, briefly claim power and disappear, either assassinated or ingested by a larger enterprise.
Eyes wide open, Saviano records everything he experiences, names and methods, recounting the grim statistics of collateral deaths like a camera. This experience is in his blood: “I know how economics originate and where their smell comes from.” From the Port to “the System,” the infamous Kalashnikov and the cement that creates “a supply system that keeps the clan in touch with contractors, linking to every possible deal… with extortion as a secondary service,” Saviano exposes everything, names, places, crimes.
That murder and mayhem is profligate is not surprising, the blood and gore part of this cycle of life and death. What is shocking is that all evolves in a seamless whole, no one part standing out, chapter after chapter of a way of life that is completely soulless in pursuit of profit. The author’s courage in speaking out is impressive, giving notice to a criminal organization that feeds upon humanity to ensure its prosperity. Breaking the code of silence, Saviano jeopardizes his own life, resolute in spite of threat.