An Italian journalist and author, famous for her long, aggressive, and revealing interviews
Oriana Fallaci was a courageous and talented woman who captivated entire generations with her wonderful writing. She was one of the most influential journalists of the entire 20th century, marking a before and after in the press. Her 12 books have been translated into more than 20 languages and it is estimated that at least 20 million copies of her work have been sold worldwide.
She excelled mainly as an interviewer, as no one was able to bring out the more hidden aspects of the famous and the figures who occupied the organs of power as she was. Oriana Fallaci is one of the icons of the fourth estate. She has demonstrated that journalism exercised with clear principles is capable of changing events.
Through her recorder passed several of the most influential characters of the 20th century. It is said that they all hated her and that this was, for her, a sign that she was doing things right.
“The moment you give up your principles, and your values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period.”
In addition to her journalistic work, she was also a wonderful writer. Her direct, sensitive, and entertaining style captivated several generations. In her work, she covered many kinds of topics: from the oppression of women in the Muslim world to the history of Muhammad Ali and Vietnam, to the trip to the moon.
Specifically, regarding the trip to the Moon, one of Oriana Fallaci’s most famous stories occurred during the Apollo 12 journey. It is said that the commander of the trip, Charles Conrad, sought her advice on what phrase he could say when the satellite landed. Since Conrad was a short man, Fallaci advised him to say, “Man, that may have been a small one for Neil but that’s a long one for me!”
Oriana Fallaci was born in Florence (Italy) on July 29, 1929. It is common to hear that her mother had a very strong personality. Her father, Edoardo, was a humble carpenter, a lover of the works of Marcel Proust, and a radical leftist. Oriana was his first daughter, and he hoped it would be a man. Since this did not happen, he raised her as if she were a boy.
Her father taught her to shoot, hunt, and resist situations of pain without complaining. When fascism took over Italy, Edoardo and his daughter, only 13 years old, joined the resistance. Oriana Fallaci’s father was arrested and tortured by the Nazis during the occupation of Florence. She, meanwhile, served as a human courier for the resistance.
When the war ended, the Italian army awarded her a medal of honor for her courage. At the time, Oriana Fallaci was only 14 years old. She was an excellent student and, thanks to a scholarship, was able to study medicine. However, her destiny would take her down other paths. She ended up falling in love with journalism. Before she was 20 she was already in the profession.
Fallaci worked for several small newspapers. In the late 1950s, she began writing for L’Europeo magazine, which sent her to the United States to write notes on the entertainment industry. From this experience, her first book The Seven Deadly Sins of Hollywood, was born.
On this trip, Oriana felt that she belonged in the United States and moved to the country, moving to New York in the early 1960s.
Later, she embarked on a series of trips to the Orient, which gave rise to her works The Useless Sex and Penelope Goes to War. Later came a series of articles and a book on NASA’s space projects.
In 1967 she was assigned as a war correspondent and started to cover the Vietnam conflict. This gave rise to several chronicles and one of her most famous books: Nothing, and So Be It
From this moment on, her fame spread all over the world. She covered several social protests. During the massacre that took place in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico, she was shot several times. Some people believed her dead and sent her to the morgue until a staff member realized she was still alive and took her to a hospital.
One woman, one legend
In this next stage of Oriana Fallaci’s biography, the era of her great interviews began. It can be said that she managed to sit at the table with the most powerful men in the world at that time.
One of her memorable dialogues was the one she had with Ayatollah Khomeini in which she questioned him about his treatment of women and took off in his presence the clothes she had been forced to wear for the interview. Most of this work is recorded in the book Interview with History.
In 1973, just as she was doing one of her interviews, she met Alexandros Panagoulis, a Greek hero who had fought in the dictatorship, and the two fell madly in love.
The relationship ended three years later when Panágulis died. This event profoundly marked the life of Oriana Fallaci, who wrote A Man. She continued reaping successes, but years later took refuge in her New York apartment.
There she was taken by surprise by lung cancer, and also by 9/11. In connection with this event, she wrote some articles so radical against Islam that three governments decided to sue her for xenophobia.
In 2006, in secret, she asked to be taken to her hometown, Florence, because she wished to die in the city where she was born. Ten days later, on September 15, Oriana Fallaci passed away leaving behind an unparalleled journalistic legacy.
HERSTORY Makes History08, August 2022
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