Oriana Fallaci

Oriana Fallaci
Oriana Fallaci

Fallaci (right) with Iranian president Abulhassan Banisadr (left)
Born 29 June 1929(1929-06-29)
Florence, Italy1
Died 15 September 2006(2006-09-15) (aged 77)
Occupation Journalist, author, political interviewer

Oriana Fallaci (29 June 1929[1] – 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. Fallaci became famous worldwide for her coverage of war and revolution, and her interviews with many world leaders during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

After retirement, she returned to the spotlight after writing a series of articles and books critical of Islam that aroused both support as well as controversy.


Life and career

The resistance movement

Fallaci was born in Florence, Italy. During World War II, she joined the resistance despite her youth, in the democratic armed group "Giustizia e Libertà". Her father Edoardo Fallaci, a cabinet maker in Florence, was a political activist struggling to put an end to the dictatorship of Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. It was during this period that Fallaci was first exposed to the atrocities of war. She later received a certificate for valour from the Italian army.[2] In a 1976 retrospective collection of her works, she remarked that:

Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or a beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon...I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born.[3]

Beginning as a journalist

Fallaci began her career journalism during her teens, becoming a special correspondent for the Italian paper Il mattino dell'Italia centrale in 1946.[4] Beginning in 1967 she worked as a war correspondent covering Vietnam, the Indo-Pakistani War, 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":[3]

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."[3]


In the early 1970s Fallaci 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 on 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 his life.

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."[5] Kissinger later wrote that it was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press."[6]

During her 1979 interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, she addressed him as a "tyrant" and managed to unveil herself from the chador:

OF- I still have to ask you a lot of things. About the "chador," for example, which I was obliged to wear to come and interview you, and which you impose on Iranian women. [...] I am not only referring to the dress but to what it represents, I mean the apartheid Iranian women have been forced into after the revolution. They cannot study at the university with men, they cannot work with men, they cannot swim in the sea or in a swimming-pool with men. They have to do everything separately, wearing their "chador." By the way, how can you swim wearing a "chador"?
AK- None of this concerns you, our customs do not concern you. If you don't like the islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it, since it is for young women and respectable ladies.
OF- This is very kind of you, Imam, since you tell me that, I'm going to immediately rid myself of this stupid medieval rag. There !.[7]


Living in New York and in a house she owned in Tuscany, Fallaci lectured at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Harvard University, and Columbia University.[citation needed]

After 9/11

After September 11, 2001, beginning with The Rage and the Pride (initially a four-page article in Corriere della Sera, the major national newspaper in Italy), Fallaci wrote three books critical of Islamic extremists and Islam in general, and in both writing and interviews warned that Europe was too tolerant of Muslims. She wrote that "sons of Allah breed like rats" and in a Wall Street Journal interview in 2005, said that Europe was no longer Europe but "Eurabia".[8] The Rage and The Pride and The Force of Reason both became best-sellers.

Fallaci was a life-long heavy smoker. She died on 15 September 2006, in her native Florence, from lung cancer.

Her writings have been translated into 21 languages including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Urdu, Greek, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, Hebrew, Croatian, Persian, Slovenian, Danish and Bulgarian.


Fallaci twice received the St. Vincent Prize for journalism (1967, 1971), as well as the Bancarella Prize (1970) 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).

On 30 November 2005 in New York, Fallaci received the Annie Taylor Award for courage from the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. She was honored for the "heroism and the values" that rendered her "a symbol of the fight against Islamic fascism and a knight of the freedom of humankind." The Annie Taylor Award is annually awarded to people who have demonstrated unusual courage in adverse conditions and great danger. David Horowitz, founder of the center, described Fallaci as "a General in the fight for freedom."

On 8 December 2005, Oriana Fallaci was awarded the Ambrogino d'oro, the highest recognition of the city of Milan.

Acting on a proposal by Minister of Education Letizia Moratti, on 14 December 2005 the President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, awarded Oriana Fallaci a Gold Medal for her cultural contributions (Benemerita della Cultura). The state of her health prevented her from attending the ceremony. She wrote in a speech: "This gold medal moves me because it gratifies my efforts as writer and journalist, my front line engagement to defend our culture, love for my country and for freedom. My current well known health situation prevents me from traveling and receiving 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." [9]

On 12 February 2006, the Governor of Tuscany, Riccardo Nencini, awarded Fallaci a gold medal from the Council of Tuscany. Nencini reported that the prize was awarded as Oriana Fallaci was a beacon of Tuscan culture in the world. During the award ceremony, held in New York, the writer talked 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."

America Award of the Italy-USA Foundation in 2010 (in memory).[10]


She received much public attention for her controversial writings and statements on Islam and European Muslims. Both agreement and disagreements have been published in Italian newspapers (among which, La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera had a series of articles), and David Holcberg at the Ayn Rand Institute supported her cause with a letter to The Washington Times.[11]

Fallaci received support in Italy, where her books have sold over one million copies.[12][13] 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."[14]

In 2002 in Switzerland the Islamic Center and the Somal Association of Geneva, SOS Racisme of Lausanne, along with a private citizen, sued Fallaci for the allegedly "racist" content of The Rage and The Pride.[15][16] 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 prosecute or extradite her. Italian Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli rejected the request on the grounds that the Constitution of Italy protects freedom of speech.[17]

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 18 phrases, most notably a reference to Islam as "a pool that never purifies." [18][19] Consequently an Italian judge ordered Fallaci to stand trial in Bergamo on charges of "defaming Islam." The preliminary trial began on 12 June and on 25 June Judge Beatrice Siccardi decided that Oriana Fallaci should indeed stand trial beginning on 18 December.[20] Fallaci accused the judge of having disregarded the fact that Smith had called for her murder and defamed Christianity.[21]

In France, some Arab-Muslim and anti-defamation organisations such as MRAP and Ligue des Droits de l'Homme launched lawsuits against Oriana Fallaci charging that The Rage and The Pride and The Force of Reason (La Rage et l'Orgueil and La Force de la Raison in their French versions) were "offensive to Islam" and "racist."[19] Her lawyer, Gilles William Goldnadel,[22] president of the France-Israel Organization, was also Alexandre del Valle's lawyer during similar lawsuits against del Valle.

On 3 June 2005, Fallaci had published on the front page of an Italian daily newspaper a highly controversial article entitled "Noi Cannibali e i figli di Medea" ("We cannibals and Medea's offspring"), urging women not to vote for a public referendum about artificial insemination that was held on 12 June and 13, 2006.[23]

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 the Pope and expressed admiration for his 2004 essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself."[24][25]

In the June 2006 issue of Reason Magazine, libertarian writer Cathy Young wrote: "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."[26]


  • The Seven Sins of Hollywood preface by Orson Welles, Longanesi (Milan), 1958.
  • The Useless Sex: Voyage around the Woman Horizon Press (New York City), 1961.
  • Penelope at War 1962 (London).
  • Limelighters 1963.
  • The Egotists: Sixteen Surprising Interviews Regnery (Chicago), 1968.
  • Quel giorno sulla Luna Rizzoli, 1970.
  • Interview With History, a collection of interviews with various political figures Liveright, 1976.
  • A Man, The story of Alexandros Panagoulis, a Greek revolutionary. A novel about a hero who fights alone and to the death for freedom and for truth. (1979) ISBN 84-279-3854-3
  • Inshallah, a fictional account of Italian troops stationed in Lebanon in 1983.
  • If the Sun Dies, about the US space program.
  • Letter to a Child Never Born, a dialogue between a mother and her eventually miscarried child.
  • Nothing, and so be it, report on the Vietnam war based on personal experiences.
  • The Rage and The Pride (La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio), an expose on Islam. Rizzoli, December 2001. ISBN 0-8478-2504-3.
  • The Force of Reason (La Forza della Ragione). Rizzoli, April 2004. ISBN 0-8478-2753-4
  • Oriana Fallaci intervista Oriana Fallaci, Fallaci interviews herself on the subject of "Eurabia" and "Islamofacism". (Milan: Corriere della Sera, August 2004).
  • Oriana Fallaci intervista sé stessa – L'Apocalisse (in Italian). An update of the interview with herself. A new, long epilogue is added. Publisher: Rizzoli, November 2004.
  • Un cappello pieno di ciliegie, Rizzoli, 2008. A novel about her ancestors, published two years after her death. Fallaci worked on it for ten years, until the September 11 attacks and her books inspired by them.

See also


  1. ^ Guardian, most sources indicate Fallaci was born on 29 June, but some sources indicate 24 July
  2. ^ Oriana Fallaci Official site
  3. ^ a b c "The Agitator: Oriana Fallaci directs her fury toward Islam", Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 5 June 2006.
  4. ^ Arico, Santo L. Oriana Fallaci: The Woman and the Myth, Southern Illinois University, 1998, p.26 ISBN 0-8093-2153-X
  5. ^ Fallaci, Oriana. Interview with History, p.40-41. Translated by John Shepley. 1976, Liveright Press. ISBN 0-87140-590-3
  6. ^ The Washington Post, Reporter-Provocateur Oriana Fallaci, by Adam Bernstein, 16 September 2006
  7. ^ OF – La prego, Imam: devo chiederle ancora molte cose. Di questo "chador" a esempio, che mi hanno messo addosso per venire da lei e che lei impone alle donne,[...] non mi riferisco soltanto a un indumento ma a ciò che esso rappresenta: cioè la segregazione in cui le donne sono state rigettate dopo la Rivoluzione. Il fatto stesso che non possano studiare all'università con gli uomini, ad esempio, né lavorare con gli uomini, né fare il bagno in mare o in piscina con gli uomini. Devono tuffarsi a parte con il "chador". A proposito, come si fa a nuotare con il "chador"? AK – Tutto questo non la riguarda. I nostri costumi non vi riguardano. Se la veste islamica non le piace, non è obbligata a portarla. Perché la veste islamica è per le donne giovani e perbene. OF – Molto gentile. E, visto che mi dice così, mi tolgo subito questo stupido cencio da medioevo. Ecco fatto. Oriana Fallaci, intervista a Khomeini, «Corriere della Sera», 26 septembre 1979
  8. ^ "Oriana Fallaci, Incisive Italian Journalist, Is Dead at 77," by Ian Fisher, New York Times, 16 September 2006.
  9. ^ "Questa medaglia d'oro mi commuove perché gratifica la mia fatica di scrittore e di giornalista, il mio impegno a difesa della nostra cultura, il mio amore per il mio Paese e per la Libertà. Le attuali e ormai note ragioni di salute mi impediscono di viaggiare e ritirare direttamente un omaggio che per me, donna poco abituata alle medaglie e poco incline ai trofei, ha un intenso significato etico e morale."
  10. ^ "America Award" Italy-USA Foundation
  11. ^ Oriana Fallaci and Freedom of Speech, letter to the Washington Times by David Holcberg of the Ayn Rand Institute, publ. 1 June 2005.
  12. ^ Italy has a racist culture, says French editor, The Guardian, 8 August 2004.
  13. ^ Oriana in Exile, The American Spectator, 18 July 2005.
  14. ^ Sabina Guzzanti became Fallaci, La Repubblica, 8 November 2002.
  15. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Switzerland 2002, United States Department of State, 31 March 2003
  16. ^ Swiss Muslims File Suit Over "Racist" Fallaci Book, from The Milli Gazette, 1 July 2002.
  17. ^ Excerpts from The force of Reason.
  18. ^ "Oriana Fallaci Trial Begins in Italy"
  19. ^ a b "French Court Throws Out Lawsuit on Anti-Islam Book"
  20. ^ Fallaci, the trial continues in December, L'Eco di Bergamo, 26 June 2006.
  21. ^ Il nemico che trattiamo da amico – Corriere della Sera
  22. ^ http://fides.ifrance.com/html/fallaci.html
  23. ^ "We cannibals and Medea's offspring", by Oriana Fallaci, June 2005.
  24. ^ Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online
  25. ^ Prophet of Decline, The Wall Street Journal, 23 June 2005.
  26. ^ The Jihad Against Muslims: When does criticism of Islam devolve into bigotry?, from Reason magazine, June 2006.

External links

Articles by Fallaci

  • Rage & Pride by Oriana Fallaci, English translation by Letizia Grasso, from the four-page essay "La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio", that appeared in Italy's leading newspaper Corriere della Sera on 29 September 2001. (Note that the official edition by Rizzoli, is translated by Fallaci herself)
  • Rage and Pride, as translated by Chris Knipp
  • On Jew-Hatred in Europe, by Columnist Oriana Fallaci, IMRA – 25 April 2002 (Originally published in Italian in the Panorama magazine, 17 April 2002).

Articles about Fallaci

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