Authors: Oriana Fallaci

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Italian journalist and novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Penelope alla guerra, 1961 (Penelope at War, 1962)

Niente e così sia, 1969 (Nothing, and So Be It, 1972)

Lettera a un bambino mai nato, 1975 (Letter to a Child Never Born, 1976)

Un uomo, 1979 (A Man, 1980)

Insciallah, 1990 (Inshallah, 1992)

Nonfiction:

Il sesso inutile, 1961 (The Useless Sex, 1964)

Gli antipatici, 1963 (The Egotists: Sixteen Surprising Interviews, 1968)

Se il sole muore, 1965 (If the Sun Dies, 1966)

Intervista con la storia, 1974 (Interview with History, 1976)

Rabbia e l’orgoglio, 2001 (The Rage and the Pride, 2002)

Biography

If war is the thread that runs through the life and work of Oriana Fallaci (fah-LAH-chee), the bond that ties it together is physical and moral courage. Fallaci’s life began in Florence, Italy, before World War II, but her youth was spent surrounded by the horrors of the war. A member of the underground, her father was imprisoned, tortured, and threatened with execution, and she herself took part in the Corps of Volunteers for Freedom; she received an honorable discharge from the Italian army at the age of fourteen. This experience undoubtedly fostered her hatred of tyranny and her deep and abiding respect for the men, women, and often children who combat those who abuse power.{$I[AN]9810001886}{$I[A]Fallaci, Oriana}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Fallaci, Oriana}{$I[geo]ITALY;Fallaci, Oriana}{$I[tim]1930;Fallaci, Oriana}

When the war ended Fallaci, then sixteen years old, began to write a crime column in a daily newspaper to pay her expenses in medical school at the University of Florence. She discovered a passion for writing and abandoned her medical studies. From the daily newspaper she moved to the Italian magazine L’Europeo, and her work soon began to appear in Look, Life, Newsweek, The New Republic, The New York Times, and other well-respected magazines and newspapers in the United States.

With the publication of If the Sun Dies, a record of her yearlong association with the astronauts, Fallaci achieved recognition as a serious writer. In this work, the first in which she employs her mature style, a seamless union of journalism and literature, Fallaci weaves her depiction of the astronauts Deke Slayton, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and her “brothers”–Pete Conrad and Theodore Freeman, among others–into the story of her own intellectual dilemma. She frames the discussion with the opposition between her father’s belief that human beings cannot escape their problems on the Moon or Venus or Alpha Centauri and her own awe of the audacity of those who challenge the heavens. Fallaci wavers occasionally from her trust in human capacity to progress but, in the end, affirms her belief in the necessity and rightness of the war of life that humankind continually wages.

Fallaci first attained recognition for her probing, revealing interviews with such personalities as Alfred Hitchcock, Golda Meir, Hugh Hefner, and the Ayatollah Khomeini. Her interview with Henry Kissinger was noteworthy because he described himself to her as the lone cowboy leading the wagon train. Interviews with Indira Gandhi and Ali Bhutto brought the leaders of India and Pakistan dangerously close to canceling the peace accord they were about to sign.

A turning point in Fallaci’s life came when she met the Greek poet and revolutionary Alexander Panagoulis, who for years had been imprisoned and tortured for his attempt to assassinate George Papadopoulus. He became Fallaci’s lover during the final three years of his life, in which time she became his co-conspirator. Obeying a promise made to Panagoulis before he died in an automobile accident, which she maintains was an assassination, Fallaci later recorded the story of the heroic but self-destructive Panagoulis in her passionate tribute, A Man.

Before A Man Fallaci wrote the work that forever joined her name with that of Vietnam. In Nothing, and So Be It, for which she was awarded the prestigious Bancarella Prize in 1971, Fallaci recounts the story of a year spent in Vietnam. During that time she came to modify her political sympathies, for she recognized the corruption of every side, including that of romanticized Viet Cong. Reinforced by her involvement in the student protests against the Olympics in Mexico City during which she was wounded and almost bled to death, her experiences in Vietnam made Fallaci more convinced than ever that it was necessary to oppose power and that to live life well an individual must believe in something and fight for it.

In the critically acclaimed, apocalyptic novel Inshallah, Fallaci returned to war for her theme. Set in war-ravaged Beirut in the days immediately following the kamikaze bombing of the marine barracks that took the lives of hundreds of American and French soldiers in 1983, the story focuses on the Italian peacekeeping force. Some critics believed that Fallaci did not sufficiently attempt to comprehend the Arab world, and others criticized the literary style as being overwrought. It is clear, however, that in Inshallah Fallaci moved beyond the journalistic style of her earlier work and attained the level of literature. Self-consciously epic in scale, the novel remains poignant in its depiction of the human character and spirit.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that felled New York’s World Trade Center towers, Fallaci returned to nonfiction with a volume about Islamic terrorism, The Rage and the Pride, that contrasted the worlds of East and West. The book received mixed reviews not only for Fallaci’s clumsy English translation of her own work but also for her excoriation of those Western cicadas (intellectuals) who pointed to the insensitivity and apathy of the United States as laying the foundation for the events of September 11. Her criticism of her European compatriots and her outspoken anti-Arab and anti-Islamic invective garnered charges of racism from some, while appealing to others’ desire to hold Islamic fundamentalism responsible for terrorism.

BibliographyAricò, Santo L. “Breaking the Ice: An In-depth Look at Oriana Fallaci’s Interview Techniques.” Journalism Quarterly 63 (August, 1986): 587-593. Arico’s article presents a studied and careful critique of Fallaci from the perspective of a professional colleague.Aricò, Santo L. Oriana Fallaci: The Woman and the Myth. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998. Biography discusses Fallaci’s work, which combines fiction and journalism. Relates her interviews with Indira Gandhi, Lech Wałesa, and Henry Kissinger, and explores her outspoken antitotalitarianism.Burke, Jeffrey. “Fallaci Records.” Harper’s 261 (November, 1980): 98-99. Primarily a review of the novel A Man. Contains many references to Interview with History and provides some useful insights into Fallaci’s career up to 1980.Cott, Jonathan. Forever Young. New York: Random House, 1978. Among Cott’s interviews compiled in this anthology is one with Fallaci which first appeared in the June, 1976, issue of Rolling Stone. Of all the interviews given by Fallaci, this is perhaps the most famous because it provided her with a forum to explain and justify some of the techniques for which she became famous.Gatt-Rutter, John. Oriana Fallaci: The Rhetoric of Freedom. Washington, D.C.: Berg, 1996. An introductory look at Fallaci’s work from 1958 to 1995.Griffith, Thomas. “Interviews, Soft or Savage.” Time 117 (March 30, 1981): 47.Griffith, Thomas. “Trial by Interview.” Time 115 (January 21, 1980): 71. In these two brief articles, Griffith comments on Fallaci’s celebrity as an interviewer and the controversy that surrounds her. He expresses respect and admiration for Fallaci’s success, both in obtaining interviews from inaccessible people and in expressing her personal style.
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