Oriana Fallaci 1930–
Italian journalist and novelist.
The following entry provides an overview of Fallaci's career through 1998. For further information on her life and works, see CLC, Volume 11.
Best known as a hard-nosed interviewer to whom, as Elizabeth Mehren of the Los Angeles Times said, "virtually no world figure would say no," Oriana Fallaci is a writer who combines the methods of fiction with the reporting of facts. She is a valuable contributor to a genre of writing known as new journalism, or creative non-fiction, which includes writers such as Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and Gay Talese. Fallaci's personality plays a strong role in her writing. As she states in her book Intervista con la storia (1974; Interview with History): "On every professional experience I leave shreds of my heart and soul; and I participate in what I see or hear as though the matter concerned me personally and were one on which I ought to take a stand." Fallaci eschews objectivity to get at the truth, a controversial approach that has gained her notoriety, but which illustrates her belief that she is not simply a journalist, but also a chronicler of her time.
Oriana Fallaci was born on June 29, 1930 in Florence, Italy, the daughter of Edoardo and Tosca Fallaci. Edoardo, a cabinet maker and politician, was a leader of the Resistance in Italy during World War II. Fallaci began writing what she called "short naive stories" at age nine and was involved in the Resistance as a teenager. To pursue her writing ambitions, at sixteen she became a reporter in Florence for Il Mattino. She later became special correspondent for the journals Epoca and L'Europeo, and eventually contributed articles to Corriere della sera, Le Nouvelle Observateur, The New York Times, Life, New Republic, Washington Post, and Der Stern. Initially she interviewed show-business personalities like Dean Martin and Michael Caine, but she soon found her true calling: interviewing political figures such as Henry Kissinger, Yasir Arafat, Golda Meir, Nguyen Cao Ky, The Shah of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Mu'ammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi. "I do these interviews to understand the person, to study how power takes place," said Fallaci. She has won several awards for journalism in Italy and North America and has been a university lecturer at Yale, Harvard, Chicago and Columbia. She is a two-time winner of the St. Vincent prize for Journalism and was awarded the Bancarella prize in 1971 for Niente e cosi sia (1969; Nothing, and So Be It), her account of the Vietnam war. She received an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from Columbia College (Chicago) and earned the Viaggio Prize for Un uomo (1979; A Man), a novelistic account of Fallaci's experiences with Alexandros Panagoulis, a Greek political activist who was killed on May 1, 1976. Fallaci met Panagoulis for an interview two days after he was released from a five-year prison term served for an assassination attempt on Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos. Fallaci and Panagoulis became lovers and were together until his death. Fallaci claims to never have written for money. Her motivation, she relates, has been "a great emotion, both a psychological or political and … intellectual emotion." The influence of Fallaci's interviews is legendary; for example, a 1972 peace treaty between India and Pakistan was jeopardized because of comments elicited from Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during an interview with Fallaci. Her approach is unconventional, but effective. As she told journalist Mike Wallace on CBS's 60 Minutes: "I hate objectivity…. I do not believe in objectivity, I believe in what I see, what I hear, and what I feel."
Fallaci's work has been translated from the original Italian into many languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Dutch, Croatian, and Greek. She is drawn to issues of power, although she has developed other themes. An early book, Il sesso inutile (1961; The Useless Sex ), covered the...
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