Mafia writer Roberto Saviano, David Hare win Pinter Prize

British playwright and filmmaker David Hare and Italian writer Roberto Saviano, who has lived in hiding since the publication of his mafia exposé Gomorrah, are the latest winners of PEN's Harold Pinter Prize.
Italian writer Roberto Saviano, seen in Rome in 2010, has lived under police protection since the 2006 release of his Neapolitan mafia exposé Gomorrah and the subsequent film inspired by it. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

British playwright and filmmaker David Hare and Italian writer Roberto Saviano, who has lived in hiding since the publication of his mafia exposé Gomorrah, have won PEN's Harold Pinter Prize.

The writers' and human rights organization announced Monday that the two men are the 2011 winners of the honour, established in 2009 in memory of the late Nobel laureate. The prize is awarded annually to two individuals: a U.K. author who — in the spirit of Pinter — "casts an unflinching, unswerving gaze upon the world" and who then selects a co-recipient, a "writer of courage" facing persecution because of his or her work. Each receives £1,000 (about $1,600 Cdn).

Hare, 64, is known for directing theatre and penning dramas that tackle contemporary current events, like the Iraq invasion, and British institutions (including the Church of England, the English media and the Labor Party). He has also written and directed films, including the spy thriller Page Eightwhich closed the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Playwright and filmmaker David Hare brought his latest film, Page Eight, to the Toronto International Film Festival in September. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

"In the course of his long, distinguished career, David Hare has never failed to speak out fearlessly on the subject of politics in the broadest sense; this courage, combined with his rich creative talent, makes him a worthy winner of the PEN/Pinter Prize," author Antonia Fraser, Pinter's widow and one of the 2011 judges, said in a statement.

Since the release of his 2006 book Gomorrah, which exposed the wide reach of the criminal underworld in Naples, 32-year-old investigative journalist Saviano has been forced to live in hiding, under 24-hour police protection. His bestselling book also spawned a film, which won acclaim at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and at the 2008 European Film Awards.

"There are millions of Italians who think, like myself, that he is the bravest Italian in modern history," said Saviano's friend and fellow journalist Annalisa Piras, who accepted the Pinter Prize on his behalf in London.

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

With files from The Associated Press