Support balloons for anti-Mafia author Saviano

British authors Martin Amis and Ian McEwan are among several literary figures to rally in support of Roberto Saviano, author of a best-selling mafia exposé who now fears for his life, the Italian daily
La Repubblica said on Tuesday.

Americans Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Safran Foer, Jose Saramago of Portugal, and Spaniard Javier Marias have also joined an appeal launched on Monday by six Nobel prizewinners to urge the Italian government to assume its “responsibility” to protect Saviano, the paper said.

Altogether about 100 000 people have joined the petition, prompted by Saviano’s announcement last week that he would flee Italy after learning that the southern Camorra Mafia want him dead by Christmas.

Saviano (28) whose book Gomorrah has been translated into 42 languages, has lived under police protection for two years.

The screen version of Gomorrah, directed by Matteo Garrone, won second prize at the 2008 Cannes film festival and is now in the running for an Oscar.

“It is intolerable that all this can happen in Europe, and in 2008,” wrote the six Nobel honorees including Peace Prize laureates Mikhail Gorbachev and Desmond Tutu.

“With our signatures … we call the state to its responsibilities,” they said. “The state must make every effort possible to protect him and defeat the Camorra.”

Signatories also include Nobel literature prizewinners Orhan Pamuk of Turkey, German author Guenter Grass and Italian playwright Dario Fo.

British writer Salman Rushdie, who lived in hiding for years after an Islamic death threat, said last week that Saviano was in far greater danger than he himself ever was.

Rushdie said that “in April in New York, the FBI believed he was already in danger, because there is the Mafia in the United States too.”

Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, published 20 years ago, earned him an Islamic death threat and forced him to live in hiding under police protection for nearly a decade.

If Saviano leaves Italy, he would become the first writer to do so because of Mafia death threats.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last week vowed to “eliminate” the Mafia from southern Italy with a “tough and merciless fight”.

The conservative leader, who came to power for a third time in May largely on a security platform, said he and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni were finalising an offensive to be unleashed soon.

“You’ll see, we will succeed in eradicating organised crime in the south,” he told the daily Il Giornale. – AFP

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