The Piranhas by Roberto Saviano (translated by Antony Shugaar)

When Roberto Saviano wrote Gomorrah he created something radical and different in the crime genre. The uncompromising descriptions of Italian urban crime made his book something of a phenomenon and led to a variety of death threats to the author — and a life in hiding. Gomorrahs refusal to construct a linear formal structure, but to present a piecemeal approach to the lives (and sometimes violent fates) of the characters was a particularly canny tactic, and granted total plausibility to the often gruesome narrative. Saviano painted his bleak picture on the most ambitious of canvases.

The new book (which comes adorned with an encomium from Elena Ferrante) returns to the world of street crime of which Saviano is the definitive chronicler. His subjects here are the children’s gangs of Naples, the ‘Paranze’ — teenagers who alternate between playing endless PlayStation games and acting as brutal enforcers for their Mafia bosses on the streets, often armed with AK-47s. The subject here is the rise of one such gang and their leader Nicolas, known as The Maharajah. All the elements that made Saviano’s earlier work so memorable are satisfyingly present. What’s more, the translation by Anthony Shugaar sports his customary adroit command of idiom – so important in a book such as this with its streetwise characters.

The Piranhas by Roberto Saviano is published by Picador

 

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