Mafia writer Saviano awarded PEN/Pinter prize in UK

Mon Oct 10, 2011 3:53pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Italian writer Roberto Saviano, who has lived under police protection since penning 2006 bestseller "Gomorrah" about Naples' mafia, has won the PEN/Pinter International Writer of Courage Award.

Saviano, 32, shares the award with Briton David Hare, who is perhaps best known for his work about British institutions.

Each year a British writer is honored with the PEN/Pinter award, established in 2009 by literary and human rights organization PEN in memory of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, alongside another writer who has been persecuted for expressing his or her beliefs.

"Roberto Saviano took on the Neopolitan mafia, first in the novel Gomorrah and then in the film made from it," playwright Hare said at an awards ceremony in London on Monday.

"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."

Saviano, now living in hiding following threats to his life, sent a message expressing gratitude.

"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," he said in a statement released by organizers.

Hare is perhaps best known for his trilogy "Racing Demon" about the Church of England, "Murmuring Judges" about the judiciary and "The Absence of War" on the Labor Party. His "Stuff Happens," which premiered in 2005, tackled the invasion of Iraq.

Hare, 64, was knighted in 1998 and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

<p>Italian writer Roberto Saviano, author of "Gomorra", waves on Italian television program "Che tempo che fa" in Milan March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo</p>