Oriana Fallaci (29 June 1929 - 15 September 2006) was an Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer. A former partisan during World War II, she had a long and successful journalistic career.
She has interviewed many internationally known leaders and celebrities such as the Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger, the Shah of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, Willy Brandt, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Walter Cronkite, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Federico Fellini, Sammy Davis Jr, Nguyen Cao Ky, Yasir Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Alexandros Panagoulis, Archbishop Makarios III, Golda Meir, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Haile Selassie, Sean Connery and Lech Walesa.
After retirement, she returned to the spotlight after writing a series of articles and books critical of Islam and Arabs that aroused both support as well controversies and accusations of racism and Islamophobia.
Fallaci began her journalistic career in her teens, becoming a special correspondent for the Italian paper Il mattino dell'Italia centrale in 1946. Since 1967 she worked as a war correspondent, in Vietnam, for the Indo-Pakistani War, in 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 Epoca magazine. During the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, prior to the 1968 Summer Olympics, Fallaci was shot three times, dragged down stairs by her hair, and left for dead by Mexican forces. In a profile of Fallaci, The New Yorker described her former support of the student activists as having "devolved into a dislike of Mexicans":
The demonstrations by immigrants in the United States these past few months "disgust" her, especially when protesters displayed the Mexican flag. "I don't love the Mexicans," Fallaci said, invoking her nasty treatment at the hands of Mexican police in 1968. "If you hold a gun and say, 'Choose who is worse between the Muslims and the Mexicans,' I have a moment of hesitation. Then I choose the Muslims, because they have broken my balls."
In the early 1970s, she had an affair 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 against 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 the life of Panagoulis.
During her 1972 interview with Henry Kissinger, Kissinger agreed 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 wrote that it was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press."
Fallaci has twice received the St. Vincent Prize for journalism, as well as the Bancarella Prize (1971) 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). She has lectured at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Harvard University, and Columbia University. Fallaci’s writings have been translated into 21 languages including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Greek, Swedish, Polish, Croatian and Slovenian.
On a proposal of the Ministry of Education Letizia Moratti on December 14 2005 the President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi awarded Oriana Fallaci a Gold Medal for her cultural contributions ("Benemerita della Cultura"). Her health conditions prevented her from attending the ceremony. She wrote a speech: «This gold medal... gratifies my efforts as writer and journalist, my front line engagement to defend our culture, love for my country and for freedom. My renown health situation prevents me to travel and receive 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 February 12 2006 the Governor of Tuscany Riccardo Nencini awarded Oriana Fallaci a gold medal from the Council of Tuscany. Nencini reported that the prize was awarded as Oriana Fallaci is a beacon of Tuscan culture in the world. During the award ceremony, held in New York, the writer told 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".
Fallaci received support in Italy, where her books have sold over one million copies, but also from individuals and organisations in the rest of the world. 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 her 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 try or extradite or prosecute her. Roberto Castelli, Italian minister of Justice rejected the request on the base that the Constitution of Italy protects freedom of speech and thus the extradition request was to be rejected.
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 a phrase from the book that refers to Islam as "a pool that never purifies." Consequently an Italian judge ordered her to stand trial set for June 2006 in Bergamo on charges of "defaming Islam." A previous prosecutor had sought dismissal of the charges. The preliminary trial began on 12 June in Bergamo and on 25 June Judge Beatrice Siccardi decided that Oriana Fallaci should indeed stand trial beginning on 18 December. Fallaci accused the judge of having disregarded the fact that Smith called for her murder and defamed Christianity.
On 3 June 2005, Fallaci published on the front page of the Italian daily newspaper a highly controversial article entitled "Noi Cannibali e i figli di Medea" ("We cannibals and Medea's offspring") inviting women not to vote for a public referendum about artificial insemination that was held on June 12 and 13, 2006.
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 Pope Benedict XVI and expressed admiration for his 2004 essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself".
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, who described the book in The Atlantic as “a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam,” notes that Fallaci’s diatribes have all the marks of other infamous screeds about filthy, disease-ridden, sexually threatening aliens.''
Articles by Fallaci
Articles about Fallaci