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Reading: 'Old Mafia' and 'New Mafia' in the Novels of Saverio Strati, 1957–1977

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Research article

'Old Mafia' and 'New Mafia' in the Novels of Saverio Strati, 1957–1977

Author:

Amber Phillips

University of the West of England, GB
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Abstract

Despite being Italy’s most powerful mafia, Calabria’s ’ndrangheta has long been dwarfed by its Sicilian and Neapolitan cousins in terms of cultural representations. Such representations, however, though frequently overlooked and ignored outside of their native region, have played a definite role in shaping wider perceptions of the ’ndrangheta. This article examines three novels by Saverio Strati (1924–2014), one of Calabria’s few celebrated authors, published between 1957 and 1977. These realist novels contain rich and detailed depictions of the ’ndrangheta, and encompass a significant phase of change and development within the organization. My reading of the novels considers the nature and pace of this change, with reference to historical debates concerning the “old” and “new” mafia, particularly Pino Arlacchi’s traditional/entrepreneurial dichotomy. I further explore Strati’s portrayal of the ’ndrangheta’s relationship with traditional Calabria, considering the consensus enjoyed by the mafia within its host communities, and argue that this presents a departure from the work of Corrado Alvaro (1895–1956). Finally, I explore the ways in which Strati’s novels have been used and interpreted by ’ndrangheta scholarship and literary criticism. I argue that while contemporary literary critics appear keen to downplay the presence of the ’ndrangheta in the texts, historians and sociologists have frequently cited them as eyewitness historical accounts of the organization, blurring the line between fact and fiction.
How to Cite: Phillips, A. “'Old Mafia' and 'New Mafia' in the Novels of Saverio Strati, 1957–1977”. New Readings, vol. 17, no. 2, 2020, pp. 70–90. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/newreadings.115
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Published on 30 Dec 2020.
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