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.
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...
(The entire section is 856 words.)