|Was||Correspondent Journalist War correspondent Politician Writer Conspiracy theorist|
|Type||Journalism Literature Military Politics|
|Birth||29 June 1929, Florence, Kingdom of Italy|
|Death||15 September 2006, Florence, Kingdom of Italy (aged 77 years)|
Oriana Fallaci ([oˈrjaːna falˈlaːtʃi]; 29 June 1929 – 15 September 2006) was an Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer. A partisan during World War II, she had a long and successful journalistic career. Fallaci became famous worldwide for her coverage of war and revolution, and her interviews with many world leaders during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Her book Interview with History contains interviews with Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Yasser Arafat, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Willy Brandt, Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and Henry Kissinger, South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, and North Vietnamese General Võ Nguyên Giáp during the Vietnam War. The interview with Kissinger was published in Playboy, with Kissinger describing himself as "the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse". Kissinger later wrote that it was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press". She also interviewed Deng Xiaoping, Andreas Papandreou, Ayatollah Khomeini, Haile Selassie, Lech Wałęsa, Muammar Gaddafi, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba, Mário Soares, Alfred Hitchcock, and many others.
After retirement, she returned to the spotlight after writing a series of controversial articles and books critical of Islam that aroused condemnation as well as support.
The resistance movement
Fallaci was born in Florence, Italy, on 29 June 1929. Her father Edoardo Fallaci, a cabinet maker in Florence, was a political activist struggling to put an end to the dictatorship of Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Despite her youth, during World War II she joined the Italian anti-fascist resistance movement, Giustizia e Libertà, part of Resistenza. She later received a certificate for valour from the Italian army. In a 1976 retrospective collection of her works, she remarked:
Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or a beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon ... I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born.
Beginning as a journalist
After attaining her secondary school diploma, Fallaci briefly attended The University of Florence where she studied medicine and chemistry. She later transferred to Literature but soon dropped out and never finished her studies. It was her uncle Bruno Fallaci, himself a journalist, who suggested to young Oriana to dedicate herself to journalism. Fallaci began her career in journalism during her teens, becoming a special correspondent for the Italian paper Il mattino dell'Italia centrale in 1946. Beginning in 1967, she worked as a war correspondent covering Vietnam, the Indo-Pakistani War, the Middle East, and in South America.
For many years, Fallaci was a special correspondent for the political magazine L'Europeo, and wrote for a number of leading newspapers and the magazine Epoca. In Mexico City, during the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, Fallaci was shot three times by Mexican soldiers, dragged downstairs by her hair, and left for dead. Her eyewitness account became important evidence disproving the Mexican government's denials that a massacre had taken place.
In the early 1970s, Fallaci had a relationship with the subject of one of her interviews, Alexandros Panagoulis, who had been a solitary figure in the Greek resistance against the 1967 dictatorship, having been captured, heavily tortured and imprisoned for his (unsuccessful) assassination attempt on dictator and ex-Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos. Panagoulis died in 1976, under controversial circumstances, in a road accident. Fallaci maintained that Panagoulis was assassinated by remnants of the Greek military junta and her book Un Uomo (A Man) was inspired by his life.
During her 1972 interview with Henry Kissinger, Kissinger stated that the Vietnam War was a "useless war" and compared himself to "the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse". Kissinger later claimed that it was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press". In 1973, she interviewed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. She later stated, "He considers women simply as graceful ornaments, incapable of thinking like a man, and then strives to give them complete equality of rights and duties".
During her 1979 interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, she addressed him as a "tyrant", and managed to unveil herself from the chador:
OF: I still have to ask you a lot of things. About the "chador", for example, which I was obliged to wear to come and interview you, and which you impose on Iranian women.... I am not only referring to the dress, but to what it represents, I mean the apartheid Iranian women have been forced into after the revolution. They cannot study at the university with men, they cannot work with men, they cannot swim in the sea or in a swimming-pool with men. They have to do everything separately, wearing their "chador". By the way, how can you swim wearing a "chador"?
AK: None of this concerns you, our customs do not concern you. If you don't like the Islamic dress, you are not obliged to wear it, since it is for young women and respectable ladies.
OF: This is very kind of you, Imam, since you tell me that, I'm going to immediately rid myself of this stupid medieval rag. There!
Living in New York City and in a house she owned in Tuscany, Fallaci lectured at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Harvard University, and Columbia University.
After September 11, 2001, Fallaci wrote three books critical of Islamic extremists and Islam in general, and in both writing and interviews warned that Europe was "too tolerant of Muslims". The first book was The Rage and the Pride (initially a four-page article in Corriere della Sera, the major national newspaper in Italy). She wrote that "sons of Allah breed like rats", and in a Wall Street Journal interview in 2005, she said that Europe was no longer Europe but "Eurabia". The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason both became bestsellers.
Her writings have been translated into 21 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Urdu, Greek, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, Hebrew, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Persian, Slovenian, Danish, and Bulgarian.
Personal life and death
Fallaci became, in her last years, staunchly socially conservative, opposing abortion (except for rape), euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and gay adoptions.
On 27 August 2005, Fallaci had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo. Although an atheist, Fallaci reportedly had great respect for the Pope and expressed admiration for his 2004 essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself". Despite being an atheist, in The Force of Reason, she claimed that she was also a "Christian atheist".
Fallaci died on 15 September 2006, in her native Florence, from cancer. She was buried in the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori in the southern suburb of Florence, Galluzzo, alongside her family members and a stone memorial to Alexandros Panagoulis, her late companion.
As of 2018, Streets or squares have been renamed after her in Pisa and Arezzo, in central Italy, and Genoa, further north.
A public garden has also been dedicated to her in Sesto San Giovanni, an industrial town close to Milan. In July 2019, the lower chamber of Parliament approved the creation of low-denomination treasury bills that could also be used as a de-facto parallel currency to the euro. According to the plan's main proponent, the League's MP Claudio Borghi, the 20 euro bill should bear a picture of Fallaci.
Fallaci twice received the St. Vincent Prize for journalism (1967, 1971). She also received the Bancarella Prize (1970) for Nothing, and So Be It; Viareggio Prize (1979), for Un uomo: Romanzo; and Prix Antibes, 1993, for Inshallah. She received a D.Litt. from Columbia College (Chicago).
On 30 November 2005, in New York City, Fallaci received the Annie Taylor Award for courage from the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. She was honored for the "heroism and the values" that rendered her "a symbol of the fight against Islamic fascism and a knight of the freedom of humankind". The Annie Taylor Award is annually awarded to people who have demonstrated unusual courage in adverse conditions and great danger. David Horowitz, founder of the center, described Fallaci as "a General in the fight for freedom". On 8 December 2005, Fallaci was awarded the Ambrogino d'oro ([Golden Ambrogino]), the highest recognition of the city of Milan. She also received the Jan Karski Eagle Award.
Acting on a proposal by Minister of Education Letizia Moratti, on 14 December 2005, the President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, awarded Fallaci a Gold Medal for her cultural contributions (Benemerita della Cultura). The state of her health prevented her from attending the ceremony. She wrote in a speech: "This gold medal moves me because it gratifies my efforts as writer and journalist, my front line engagement to defend our culture, love for my country and for freedom. My current well known health situation prevents me from traveling and receiving in person this gift that for me, a woman not used to medals and not too keen on trophies, has an intense ethical and moral significance".
On 12 February 2006, the President of Tuscany, Riccardo Nencini, awarded Fallaci a gold medal from the Council of Tuscany. Nencini reported that the prize was awarded as Fallaci was a beacon of Tuscan culture in the world. During the award ceremony, held in New York City, the writer talked about her attempt to create a caricature of Mohammed, in reply to the polemic relating to similar caricatures that had appeared in French and Dutch newspapers. She declared: "I will draw Mohammed with his 9 wives, including the little baby he married when 70 years old, the 16 concubines, and a female camel wearing a Burqa. So far my pencil stopped at the image of the camel, but my next attempt will surely be better".
America Award of the Italy–USA Foundation in 2010 (in memory).
Fallaci received much public attention for her controversial writings and statements on Islam and European Muslims. Fallaci considered Islamic fundamentalism to be a revival of the fascism she fought against in her youth, that politicians in Europe were misunderstanding the threat of Islam in the same way that their 1930s equivalents misunderstood the threat of German fascism; she denied that "moderate Islam" actually existed, calling it a mendacity. Both support and opposition have been published in Italian newspapers (among which, La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera had a series of articles), and David Holcberg, at the Ayn Rand Institute, supported her cause with a letter to The Washington Times.
Fallaci received criticism as well as support in Italy, where her books have sold over one million copies. At the first European Social Forum, which was held in Florence in November 2002, Fallaci invited the people of Florence to cease commercial operations and stay home. Furthermore, she compared the ESF to the Nazi occupation of Florence. Protest organizers declared, "We have done it for Oriana, because she hasn't spoken in public for the last 12 years, and hasn't been laughing in the last 50".
In 2002, in Switzerland, the Islamic Center and the Somal Association of Geneva, SOS Racisme of Lausanne, along with a private citizen, sued Fallaci for the allegedly racist content of The Rage and The Pride. In November 2002 a Swiss judge issued an arrest warrant for violations of article 261 and 261 bis of the Swiss criminal code and requested the Italian government to either prosecute or extradite her. Italian Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli rejected the request on the grounds that the Constitution of Italy protects freedom of speech.
In May 2005, Adel Smith, president of the Union of Italian Muslims, launched a lawsuit against Fallaci charging that "some of the things she said in her book The Force of Reason are offensive to Islam". Smith's attorney cited 18 phrases, most notably a reference to Islam as "a pool that never purifies". Consequently, an Italian judge ordered Fallaci to stand trial in Bergamo on charges of "defaming Islam". The preliminary trial began on 12 June, and on 25 June, Judge Beatrice Siccardi decided that Fallaci should indeed stand trial beginning on 18 December. Fallaci accused the judge of having disregarded the fact that Smith had called for her murder and defamed Christianity.
In France, some Arab-Muslim and anti-defamation organisations such as MRAP and Ligue des Droits de l'Homme launched lawsuits against Oriana Fallaci, charging that The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason (La Rage et l'Orgueil and La Force de la Raison in their French versions) were "offensive to Islam" and "racist". Her lawyer, Gilles William Goldnadel, president of the France-Israel Organization, was also Alexandre del Valle's lawyer during similar lawsuits against del Valle.
On 3 June 2005, Fallaci had published on the front page of an Italian daily newspaper a highly controversial article titled "Noi Cannibali e i figli di Medea" ("We cannibals and Medea's offspring"), urging women not to vote for a public referendum about artificial insemination that was held on 12 and 13 June 2006.
In the June 2006 issue of Reason, libertarian writer Cathy Young wrote: "Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci's 2002 book The Rage and the Pride makes hardly any distinction between radical Islamic terrorists and Somali street vendors who supposedly urinate on the corners of Italy's great cities. Christopher Hitchens, writing in The Atlantic, called the book "a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam", describing it as "replete with an obsessive interest in excrement, disease, sexual mania, and insectlike reproduction, insofar as these apply to Muslims in general and to Muslim immigrants in Europe in particular".