Beauty and the Inferno by Roberto Saviano

Source – review copy

Translator – Oonagh Stransky

Now when I heard this was coming out I was excited I read Gomorrah his previous book about the Mafia ,and heard he had to go into permanent hiding due to the publication of that book in 2006  where he has 24 hour protection from the Italian government , he grew up in Naples he is a journalist and has written for a number of paper round the world like La repubblica and l’expresso .this collection of essays mostly come after he had to go into hiding .

Where to start with this collection ,it is hard I don’t want tell you every one so will choose some and tell you bits about them ,thus leaving gems for you to discover ,because this is one of these books you should run and buy even if it is just because Roberto Saviano is one of the bravest people I ve come across writing his previous book he knew would lead to trouble so in doing that he lost his liberty .the book is divided into five sections with essays grouped round themes ,the first is called south and are stories about the south of italy .The one I will mention is the last in this section all about the aftermath of the earthquake that hit L Aquilla in 2009 ,it shows how poor building standards caused more death than necessary ,this was less well reported in UK but 300 plus people died as Saviano says when he quotes Franco Armino the Italian poet

Twenty five years after the earthquake there will not be much left of the dead .And even less of the living .

The next collection of essays are about Men ,he meets a wonderful collection of men ,the brittle bone suffering Jazz musician Michel Petrucciani’s where Saviano describes the life of this talented musician who overcame a very bad condition to bring music to people .Another story in this section that really grabbed me is the Messi essay all about the young Lionel Messi and how this wonderfully gifted footballer ended up at Barcelona as they saw him as a very young boy but with a growth problem ,so they funded treatment ,this was news to me and to a non football fan is a touching tale of a boys dreams coming true .

The treatment ,however ,can split you in two Nausea was the main problem .You vomit up your soul .Your facial hair does not grow .You feel your muscles popping out ,your bones creaking and groaning .Everything gets bigger and longer in months rather than years .I couldn’t let myself experience the pain says Messi

Then we have two short sections one on business,one was about rubbish business in italy and the problems that have been caused by this being corruptly  run .The next section is called war he talks about one of my favourite non fiction books Michael Herr’s dispatches a book that was used partly in two films apocalypse now and Full metal jacket ,I love that he likes this book as well Herr like Saviano is a writer that isn’t afraid of the truth and telling it like he did in dispatches (this lead to me deciding to reread dispatches and tie it in with Bao Ninh the sorrow of war shortly ).The final section is called north and is about mainly the nobel prize this includes Saviano meeting Salman Rushdie this is worth a read if you don’t read anything else in the book to see two men that have had to live in hiding because of what they wrote is touching .

Well as you may tell this is another non fiction book that has grabbed my heart ,Saviano is a writer that can draw the reader in from the first word ,his clear descriptions and obvious knowledge of the subjects he writes about is clear .This does what all good essays should do, that’s leave you wanting to know more about the subject of the essay ,but also with the feeling you know enough to talk about the subject to the lay man .Oonagh Stransky did a fine job on the translation.The book is published by Maclehose press 

What are your favourite works of Non fiction ?

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish
    Jun 18, 2011 @ 17:00:19

    This book came to me this week as a giveaway & am really liking what I’ve glanced at so far, so will be able to compare opinions when I get to it.


  2. savidgereads
    Jun 18, 2011 @ 17:26:37

    I have to say I find it very hard to find non fiction that really grips me. Unless they are victorian crimes retold or letters of generations of families. This however sounds very different and might be something to look out for in the library to give my non fiction boundaries a nudge. Thanks for, as ever, letting me know about a book I might not have considered before or even heard about.


  3. amanda
    Jun 18, 2011 @ 23:18:29

    I remember reading about Saviano around the time he had to go into hiding. I’ve never read any of his work, but it sounds really fascination, so I will have to look into finding it.


  4. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Jun 19, 2011 @ 21:22:04

    Don’t know if I have a favourite non-fiction yet. However, since I love Lionel Messi and I am a fan of Barcelona and I have heard bits of this story, I would love to read it. This is the story that would pull me to buy the book.

    Then again, I love books about the Mafias, like Mario Puzo’s God Father etc.


  5. Bina
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 20:58:41

    I have his Gomorrah on my shelf somehwhere, hopefully I’ll get to it soon. This one sounds great as well!
    I love non-fiction but it’s too hard to pick one favorite so I’ll just say that right now I really love the ones I’m reading or have just finished:
    Consuming Passions (Judith Flanders), about therise of leisure and pleasure in Britain
    The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire and Phosphorus, it’s not as melodramatic as it sounds but it really an interesting overview of the history of phosphorus and how it has shaped society.


  6. Trackback: Best of the world under 40 in English translation | Winstonsdad's Blog

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June 2011


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