- Associated Press - Monday, October 10, 2011

LONDON (AP) - An Italian writer who has lived in hiding since exposing the violent world of the Naples mafia won a major freedom-of-speech prize on Monday.

Roberto Saviano shares the 2011 PEN/Pinter prize with British playwright David Hare.

Saviano’s 2006 book “Gomorrah” exposed the vast reach and ruthless methods of Naples’ criminal underworld. It has sold 4 million copies and was turned into a movie.

The book brought death threats that have forced Saviano to live in hiding with round-the-clock police protection.

Saviano could not attend Monday’s ceremony in London, but sent a message thanking his readers for ensuring “that my words became dangerous for certain powers that need silence and shade.”

His friend and fellow journalist Annalisa Piras accepted the award on his behalf, saying that although he was not physically incarcerated, “since he wrote ‘Gomorrah,’ he has been in prison.”

“There are millions of Italians who think, like myself, that he is the bravest Italian in modern history,” she said.

Hare, who has often found subjects in current affairs, is known for such plays as “Pravda: A Fleet Street Comedy,” about the English media, and “Stuff Happens,” about the Iraq invasion.

The prize was established in 2009 by writers’ organization PEN, in memory of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter. It goes jointly to a British writer seen as sharing Pinter’s unflinching gaze on society, and a “writer of courage” who has faced persecution, chosen by the British winner and PEN.

This year’s judges included Pinter’s widow Antonia Fraser and writer Hanif Kureishi, a past winner.

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