One of Italy’s most popular TV shows has just started airing on the Sundance Channel. Gomorrah is a mob family crime drama adapted from a book, but it is not of the romanticized Godfather variety. The LA Times calls the show “Aggressively dark, focused to the point of claustrophobia and often all but choking on its own authenticity, Gomorrah shocks the system like a real Italian espresso after years of skinny vanilla lattes.”
The Hollywood Reporter says it pays homage to The Wire, writing it has a “dark greatness” and continuing it is “exceptionally cinematic, from cramped interiors in the Naples slums to exhilarating car chases rapid-cut from rooftop to passenger-side to hood-mounted angles. There’s an intimacy to family dinners and a freshness to remote Italian village scenes that add a layer of visual allure … it requires concentration on the subtitles, but it’s also completely riveting and worth the effort.”
The series is based on Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System, Roberto Saviano, translated by Virginia Jewiss (Macmillan/Picador; Tantor Media; OverDrive Sample). The publisher recently updated the cover with advertising linking it to the TV series.
It came out item years ago, and was a sensation in Italy, with the Guardian characterizing its strong sales there (in a country that is not as book mad as others) as “a literary phenomenon of almost Potteresque proportions.”
Giving a sense of the flavor they write that the book begins with an grisly image, as a shipping container’s doors suddenly burst open spilling out,
“forms [that] seem at first like shop-window dummies, crumpling and shattering as they smack into concrete. But the truth soon sinks in: they are frozen cadavers, the corpses of Chinese workers.”
The LA Times points out the book has also served as the basis of a “critically lauded 2008 film” and says that the author “10 years after its publication [still] remains in hiding tells you all you need to know about the veracity of the tale, and the sort of people it involves.”
Saviano won the PEN/Pinter international writer of courage award in 2011, but could not collect it in person given the grave threats on his life. Journalist and filmmaker Annalisa Piras accepted on his behalf, reports the Guardian, saying “Saviano “has been living in a prison … in Naples they call it ‘cappotto di legno’ which means living with a coffin. It’s not something that can be revoked. There are records of these death penalties being enacted 40 years after the event.”