Oriana Fallaci
Journalist, interviewer and author

    "I sat at the typewriter for the first time and fell in love with the words that emerged like drops, one by one, and remained on the white sheet of paper ... every drop became something that if spoken would have flown away, but on the sheets as words, became solidified, whether they were good or bad."

Oriana Fallaci lost her protracted battle with breast cancer on September 15, 2006.

                        Journalist and filmmaker Giselle Fernandez writes...

    We suffer the sad loss of an icon today in the passing of Oriana Fallaci in her native Florence. This passionate and powerful voice of the 20th Century was forever bold and brazen in her dissection of politics, power and ego, and their devastating effects on democracies everywhere. She wrote with an integrity and force of character that defined her life's work up until the very last days. Fallaci was perhaps my greatest inspiration as a journalist. Her dynamic, dramatic and distinct point of view on the demise of democracies, especially in her latest works that evoked death threats against her, did nothing to silence her conviction or her writings. She died as she lived -- with passion, conviction, purpose and power. They don't make writers like her anymore.

    I most loved her book, "A Man," which she would never allow to be made into a Hollywood movie, as she feared her Man would be turned into a hero and would defy the very soul of the work in doing so. In her "Letter to a Child Never Born" or in "Inshallah" or most recently "The Pride and the Rage" and "The Force of Reason," she showed above all a love of the common man, of humanity in all its weakness and strengths, and never failed to point a finger and hold those guilty accountable for their greed, deceit or destruction. She understood that there was a love far greater than ones own personal need for love. There was a love on a much grander scale that put truth, justice and the future of mankind above all. This is from where she wrote -- a deep and soulful place that would not allow her to be bland or middle ground in any way. For this I loved her.

    She refused to let me interview her, document her life, and for me that is such a sad end to one of my greatest hopes. But she was probably right; I know her best from her writings. That voice cannot be silenced. I know she did not go gently into that good night. I imagine her fighting that dark door every second of the way. I also know there must have been a bold bright light of truth awaiting her on the other side and she was probably annoyed at the blinding. I can only hope so.

                        Giselle Fernandez

Fallaci's obituary in the British Times OnLine

1993 "Today Show" interview with Tom Brokaw / Plus three retrospective videos (in Italian)
Click thumbnails to load   /   Quicktime .mov format

Biography Resource Center:
Oriana Fallaci

June 29, 1929 - September 15, 2006

Occupation: Writer
Nationality: Italian
Source: Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, © 1999.

Table of Contents

Personal Information
Further Readings About the Author
Biographical Paper by Jill M. Duquaine - May 1996

La rabbia e l'orgoglio (Rage and Pride) - Il Corriere della Sera (English translation) - October 2001
La Fallaci's Story - Il Corriere della Sera - Complied by Stefano Jesurum - October 2001
Unpublished Portrait of Oriana Fallaci - Panorama - Lucia Annunziata & Carlo Rosella - January 2002

New York Observer - The Rage of Oriana Fallaci - Interview - January 2003
Wall Street Journal - The Rage, the Pride and the Doubt - Editorial - March 13, 2003
Wall Street Journal - Prophet of Decline - Interview - June 23, 2005
Frontpage Magazine - Daniel Pipes' introduction at her final public appearance - November 28, 2005
Frontpage Magazine - Fallaci: Warrior in the Cause of Human Freedom - November 30, 2005
American Spectator - Oriana in Exile - July 18, 2005


    Though she has written novels and memoirs, Italian author Oriana Fallaci remains best known as an uncompromising political interviewer, or, as Elizabeth Mehren puts it in the Los Angeles Times, "the journalist to whom virtually no world figure would say no." Her subjects include Henry Kissinger, Willy Brandt, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the late Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, from whom she extracted such criticism of India's Indira Gandhi that a 1972 peace treaty between the two countries almost went unsigned. Already as famous as many of the figures she interviews, Fallaci is a freethinker passionately committed to her craft. "I do not feel myself to be, nor will I ever succeed in feeling like, a cold recorder of what I see and hear," she writes in the preface toInterview 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 (in fact I always take one, based on a specific moral choice)."

    While Fallaci's morality has seldom been questioned, her interviewing techniques are highly controversial. According to New York Times Book Review contributor Francine du Plessix Gray, Fallaci combines "the psychological insight of a great novelist and the irreverence of a bratty quiz kid." Known for her abrasive interviewing tactics, Fallaci often goads her subjects into revelations. "Let's talk about war," she challenged Henry Kissinger in their 1972 interview. "You're not a pacifist, are you?" When a subject refuses to cooperate, he becomes "a bastard, a fascist, an idiot," notes Esquire contributor David Sanford.

    Fallaci denies her reputation as a brutal interrogator, insisting instead that she merely frames the questions other reporters lack the courage to ask. Where others seek objectivity, Fallaci prefers an approach that she calls "correct" and "honest." Each interview, "is a portrait of myself," she told Time contributor Jordan Bonfante. "They are a strange mixture of my ideas, my temperament, my patience, all of these driving the questions."

    Although Ted Morgan complains in the Washington Post that Fallaci "wants to be more than a brilliant interviewer, she wants to be an avenging angel," Fallaci defends her unique approach on the grounds that she is not simply a journalist but a historian as well. She told Bonfante: "A journalist lives history in the best of ways, that is in the moment that history takes place. He lives history, he touches history with his hands, looks at it with his eyes, he listens to it with his ears." To Jonathan Cott in a Rolling Stone interview, she explained: "I am the judge. I am the one who decides. Listen: if I am a painter and I do your portrait, have I or haven't I the right to paint you as I want?"

    Fallaci's commitment to self-expression began at an early age. She told CA that she remembers writing "short naive stories" at age nine. "Yet," she continues, "I really started writing at sixteen when I became a reporter in Florence. I got into journalism to become a writer." When asked what circumstances had been important to her career, Fallaci said, "first of all, the fact of belonging to a liberal and politically engaged family. Also, the fact of having lived--though as a child--the heroic days of the Resistance in Italy through a father who was a leader of it. Then, the fact of being a Florentine. That is, the result of a certain civilization and culture. However, I sometimes wonder if the most motivating factor has not been the fact of being born a woman and poor. When you are a woman, you have to fight more. Consequently, to see more and to think more and to be more creative. The same, when you were born poor. Survival is a great pusher."

    Fallaci told CA that the purpose behind her writing is "to tell a story with meaning. Certainly not money. I never wrote for money. I could never write for money--which means by order or for an engagement with a publisher." Instead, the motivating factor of each of her books is "a great emotion, both a psychological or political and [an] intellectual emotion. Think of Nothing, and So Be It, the book on Vietnam. For me, it is not even a book on Vietnam, it is a book on the war. (I am obsessed by the uselessness and the stupidity and the cruelty and the folly of the war.) Letter to a Child Never Born (which was not written for the issue of abortion as it has been said so often and so gratuitously) was born out of the loss of a child. A Man was written out of the death of my companion Alekos Panagoulis and the grief for such loss. However, one should notice that the leitmotif of all my books is the theme of death. These three books always speak of death or refer to death, my hate for death, my fight against death... . Freedom is only one of the many other elements. What really pushes me to write is my obsession with death."

    Her work habits are spartan. "I start working early in the morning (eight or eight-thirty a.m.) and go on until six p.m. or seven p.m. without interruption," she told CA. "That is, without eating and without resting. I smoke more than usual, which means, around fifty cigarettes a day. I sleep badly in the night. I don't see anybody. I don't answer the telephone. I don't go anywhere. I ignore the Sundays, the holidays, the Christmases, the New Year's Eves. I get hysterical, in other words, and unhappy and unsatisfied and guilty if I don't produce much. By the way, I am a very slow writer. And I rewrite obsessively. So I get ill and ugly, and lose weight and get wrinkles."

    Fallaci finds the current literary scene, "rich, even too rich. How much substance under such richness, who knows? Only time can give such measurement. A writer needs time to be tested in his/her value. Having success in life means nothing. Success in life has too much to do with fashion, publicity, and so on. A writer stays a writer after his death or many years after his/her books were published. Also, a writer is a writer when his work goes beyond the limits and frontiers of the language he/she writes in. Because a writer must be universal, timeless, and spaceless."

    In Letter to a Child Never Born Fallaci chronicles the fictional dialogue between the narrator and the baby the woman carries inside herself. "The plot proceeds," according to Isa Kapp in the Washington Post Book World, "as a monologue-debate on procreation and the right of a woman who has conceived a child to decide whether she should allow it to live." Based on Fallaci's own three-month pregnancy, the novel "has moments of intense emotional power," allows Francine du Plessix Gray in the New York Times Book Review. But du Plessix Gray goes on to say that "it too often lapses into a bathos that is as disconcerting as it is unexpected." Yet du Plessix Gray concludes that Letter to a Child Never Born "is a poignant testament" and finds that "in her best moments, Fallaci, as always, strips truth down to its naked bone." In her essay on Fallaci for Feminist Writers, Maria Elena Raymond explains that Letter to a Child Never Born is "considered to be one of the finest feminist writings about pregnancy, abortion, and emotional torture."

    In A Man, Fallaci attempts to immortalize the martyred poet and Greek resistance leader Alekos Panagoulis, the great love of her life. Though she calls the book a novel, A Man recounts the real story of Panagoulis's fight for Greece's freedom--a fight he continued until his death. In 1967, Panagoulis attempted to assassinate the fascist Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos by planting a series of bombs along the roads he traveled each day. The plan failed, and Panagoulis was captured and imprisoned almost immediately. During the next five years, the revolutionary was subjected to physical abuse as well as psychological torture in an effort to break his spirit and will. Despite the inhuman treatment, Panagoulis refused to succumb, and his repeated escape attempts and uncompromising rebelliousness finally led him to be isolated in a specially constructed cell, not much larger than a double bed, with no windows and only three paces' worth of standing room. He remained there until he was freed under a general amnesty in 1973. Two days after his release, Panagoulis was interviewed by Fallaci, and, firmly convinced that their meeting was an act of fate, the two became lovers within a few weeks.

    For the next three years, Fallaci and Panagoulis shared a tempestuous relationship. According to Marcia Seligson in the Los Angeles Times, "he told her: `I don't want a woman to be happy with. The world is full of women you can be happy with... . And I want a companion. A companion who will be my comrade, friend, accomplice, brother. I'm a man in battle. I always will be.' She became all those things, surrendering her own full and independent life to follow this difficult, maddening, towering man. She lived an emotional pendulum of anguish/bliss; there was no serenity, no future, only thrills and chills." Panagoulis was killed by political enemies in an ambush made to look like an auto accident in 1976. Within months of his death, Fallaci began work on the book she would dedicate to him, and, in 1979, published what she considers her most important work,A Man.

    Critical reaction to the book runs the gamut from praise to disdain. Supporters, such as Seligson, hail A Man as "a work of passion, courage, candor and exquisite skill." Saturday Review contributor Julie Stone Peters describes it as "a majestic and soul-stirring narration," maintaining that Fallaci "has learned from her interviews how to control the novel." Peter Brunette believes that her ideas transcend "the `merely' political: Fallaci places her subject in the most deeply Greek context of all, that of ancient tragedy, as she marvelously adduces one resonant mythic parallel after another on the way to her lover's final submission to his tragic fate," he writes in the New Republic.

    Others eschew her approach. "Throughout this catalogue of misery, Fallaci never makes the right choice," notes a Time reviewer. "When the account needs historical analysis, she offers tantrums; when suffering cries out for a tragic spirit, she substitutes bathos." Vivian Gomick compares it to "an old fashioned dish of hearty melodrama being offered as though it were the cuisine of tragedy."

    In the novel Inshallah, Fallaci writes a fictional account of Italian troops stationed in Lebanon in 1983. After both the American and French peacekeeping forces are the targets of suicidal truck bombers, the Italian forces ready themselves for what they fear is the inevitable third truck bomb. "Rarely," writes Christopher Dickey in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "has there been a setting so ready-made for classic tragedy." Unfortunately, Dickey believes that Fallaci "has always had trouble hearing any voice but her own" and that Inshallah "might have been a monument to her talents and her passion. Instead it remains as a tribute mainly to her ego." But Thomas Keneally finds much of value inInshallah. "Fallaci," Keneally finds in the New York Times Book Review, "writes with a muscular eloquence when giving us the squalor, yearning and shadowboxing of the soldiers' existence." Although he sees Fallaci's asides to be the weakest part of her narrative, Keneally concludes that Fallaci "is profligate with plot and detail, and her openhandedness and the inherent tensions of her large story should insure that most readers will overlook her equally spacious faults."

    Critical opinions matter little to Fallaci, who doesn't keep reviews of her books and told CA, "I do not respect reviewers. They are almost always failed writers, consequently envious and jealous of those who write. I find their profession kind of despicable, because it is so unfair and stupid to snap judgments in a little article after the work of years. I think that the real reviewers are the readers. I care very much for the letters of my readers. I receive them from all over the world, and they always say much more intelligent things than those written by the `reviewers.'

    "There are a couple of incisive reviews from my readers that I could quote. One came from a poor worker, a forty-year-old carpenter from Florence, after reading Letter To a Child Never Born. It said: `I read your book three times. You know why? Because it said the same things I always thought about life. Though I did not know that I was thinking them.' Another one came from a fifty-year-old concierge of Milan: `Your books have taught us courage.' Another one from a student of Shanghai: `I learnt from you the meaning of the word freedom.'"

    Through her books, Fallaci says she hopes "to die a little less when I die. To leave the children I did not have... . To make people think a little more, outside the dogmas that this society has nourished us with through centuries. To give stories and ideas that help people to see better, to think better, to know a little more. Then what? Writing is my way of expression. Therefore, a need."

    Her advice to aspiring writers is "not to be in a hurry to publish. And to rewrite, to rewrite, to rewrite." Though she has respect for the work of many contemporary writers, Fallaci admits "all my direct encounters with the contemporary writers I admire or still admire professionally, ended in bitterness. I mean, I found out that as persons they were not as admirable and respectable as they were as writers. And I am incapable of dividing the judgment between the writer and the private person."

    Most of Fallaci's books have been translated from Italian into numerous other languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Dutch, Croatian, and Greek.

Personal Information:

  • Family: Born June 29, 1930, in Florence, Italy; daughter of Edoardo (a cabinet maker and politician) and Tosca (Cantini) Fallaci; companion of Alexandros Panagoulis (a political activist; died May 1, 1976).
  • Education: Attended University of Florence.
  • Politics: Liberal.
  • Religion: "None."
  • Residence: Florence and New York.
  • Awards: Has twice received St. Vincent Prize for journalism; Bancarella Prize, 1971 for Nothing, and So Be It; Viareggio Prize, 1979, for Un uomo: Romanzo; Prix Antibes, 1993, for Insciallah; D.Litt., Columbia College (Chicago).
  • Assignments: Reporter, Il mattino dell'Italia centrale (newspaper), beginning 1946; reporter, Epoca (magazine), 1951; special correspondent, Europeo (magazine), since 1950s.
Has interviewed: internationally known figures, including Nguyen Cao Ky, Yasir Arafat, the Shah of Iran, Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Nguyen Van Thieu, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Willy Brandt, the Aytollah Khomeini, and Mu'ammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi. Lecturer: at universities including University of Chicago, Columbia University, Harvard University, and Yale University.

Writings by the Author:

  • I sette peccati di Hollywood (title means "The Seven Sins of Hollywood"), preface by Orson Welles, Longanesi (Milan), 1958.
  • Il sesso inutile: Viaggio intorno all donna, Rizzoli (Milan), 1961, translation by Pamela Swinglehurst published as The Useless Sex: Voyage around the Woman, Horizon Press (New York City), 1964.
  • Penelope alla guerra (novel), Rizzoli, 1962, translation by Swinglehurst published as Penelope at War, M. Joseph (London), 1966.
  • Gli antipatici, Rizzoli, 1963, translation by Swinglehurst published in England as Limelighters, M. Joseph, 1967, published as The Egotists: Sixteen Surprising Interviews , Regnery (Chicago),1968.
  • Se il sole muore, Rizzoli, 1965, translation by Swinglehurst published as If the Sun Dies, Atheneum (New York City), 1966.
  • Niente a cosi sia, Rizzoli, 1969, translation by Isabel Quigly published as Nothing, and So Be It, Doubleday (New York City), 1972 (published in England as Nothing and Amen, M. Joseph, 1972).
  • Quel giorno sulla Luna, Rizzoli, 1970.
  • Intervista con la Storia, Rizzoli, 1974, translation by John Shepley published as Interview with History, Liveright, 1976.
  • Lettera a un bambino mai nato, Rizzoli, 1975, translation by Shepley published as Letter to a Child Never Born, Simon & Schuster (New York City), 1976.
  • Un uomo: Romanzo (novel), Rizzoli, 1979, translation by William Weaver published as A Man, Simon & Schuster, 1980.
  • Insciallah, Rizzoli 1992, translated by James Marcus, published as Inshallah, Doubleday, 1992.
  • Rage and Pride, published as La rabbia e l'orgoglio, Rizzoli, 2001.
  • The Force of Reason, published as La forza della ragione, Rizzoli, Nov 2005.
  • (Not available in English) published as Se Entrevista a Si Misma: El Apocalipsis, Rizzoli, Nov 2005.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including New Republic, New York Times Magazine, Life, La Nouvelle Observateur, Washington Post, Look, Der Stern, and Corriere della Sera.

Further Readings about the Author:


  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit), 1979.
  • Feminist Writers, St. James Press (Detroit), 1996.
  • Arico, Santo L. Oriana Fallaci: the Woman and the Myth, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale), 1998.
  • Gatt-Rutter, John, Oriana Fallaci: The Rhetoric of Freedom, Berg (Washington, DC), 1996.
  • Pattavina, Giovanni, Alekos Panagulis, il rivoluzionario don Chisciotte di Oriana Fallaci: saggio politico-letterario, Edizioni italiane di letteratura e scienze (Rome), 1984.


  • American Spectator, July 18, 2005.
  • Best Sellers, May, 1977.
  • Chicago Tribune Book World, November 30, 1980.
  • Esquire, November, 1968; June, 1975.
  • Harper's, November, 1980.
  • Il Corriere della Sera, September 29, 2001.
  • Il Corriere della Sera, October 11, 2001.
  • Life, February 21, 1969.
  • London Review of Books, February 11, 1993, p. 19.
  • Los Angeles Times, November, 1980; December 2, 1980.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 10, 1993, p. 1.
  • Maclean's, February 8, 1993, p. 55.
  • New Leader, March 14, 1977.
  • New Republic, November 22, 1980.
  • New York, May 22, 1978.
  • New Yorker, February 21, 1977.
  • New York Observer, January 2003
  • New York Times, January 25, 1973; November 3, 1980.
  • New York Times Book Review, February 5, 1967; February 13, 1977; November 23, 1980; December 27, 1992, p. 8.
  • New York Observer, January 2003.
  • Panorama, January 4, 2001.
  • Panorama, January 4, 2002.
  • People, March 14, 1977.
  • Publishers Weekly, November 7, 1980; October 5, 1992, p. 54.
  • Rolling Stone, June 17, 1976.
  • Saturday Review, March 18, 1972; November, 1980; January 8, 1981.
  • Time, October 20; January 19, 1981.
  • Times Literary Supplement, August 11, 1972; May 22, 1981; September 28, 1990, p. 1039; December 18, 1992, p. 18.
  • Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2003 editorial.
  • Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2005.
  • Washington Post, February 23, 1972; March 13, 1972; May 18, 1976.
  • Washington Post Book World, February 13, 1977, pp. G7, G10; November 30, 1980; December 13, 1992, p. 5.
  • World Literature Today, summer, 1991, p. 468.
© 1999 The Gale Group: Biography Resource Center


by Jill M. Duquaine
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Social Change in Italy 875-333
Dr. A. Galt
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
May 6, 1996

    World War I proved disastrous for the nation of Italy. After first remaining neutral, Italy joined the United States, Great Britain, France, and other allied forces after it was promised land on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. But however optimistic Italy may have been upon entering the war, it proved to have severe negative consequences for the nation (Ginsborg, 1990, p. 10). The casualties numbered over 600,000 and by the end of the war, Italy was fighting to maintain its own borders. Instead of gaining the vast amount of land which had been promised, Italy added only Trentino Alto-Adige and Trieste to its territory. Following the war, Italy experienced significant decline. There was widespread economic unrest and disorganization, labor agitation, and much disappointment over the failure to gain the land which had been promised. There was high unemployment, high inflation, and the value of the Lire declined drastically, making savings, pensions, and wages worth very little (Ginsborg, 1990, p. 70).

    In light of these developments, World War I was somewhat of a radicalizing experience because it raised the political consciousness of the working class who realized that the war had aided only the wealthy and business classes. As a result, new political organizations were formed. Among these was Fasci di Combatimento (Fascists of Combat), began in 1919 by Benito Mussolini and other socialists. Known as the "Black Shirts" because of their attire, the Fascists stressed ideas of war, movement, action, machines and modernity. In order to achieve their goals, they relied on terrorist activities. They glorified war and preached extreme Italian Nationalism. According to the Fascist ideology, class conflict should be controlled through government control of labor, economics, and business (Ginsborg, 1990, p. 19). In this way, Fascism appealed to the interests of business owners who wanted to control labor disputes. However, Fascists also gained the support of laborers by making small concession to them. Peasants, dissatisfied with Socialism, also supported the rising organization (Ginsborg, 1990, p. 26). In 1921, Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party whose ideology included a strong central leadership based on conservative policies. Because it served the interests of many different interest groups within Italian society, the National Fascist Party grew rapidly. By 1925, Mussolini was undoubtedly the most powerful man in Italy. And even though by the beginning of the 1930's Fascism was beginning to fall out of favor with many Italians, Mussolini remained in power throughout the 1930's and in 1940, he joined Hitler in world War II.

    It was in the midst of Mussolini's ascension to power that Oriana Fallaci was born in Florence, Italy on June 29, 1930 (Arico, 1986, p. 587). Fallaci's writing, both as a journalist and a novelist, indicate that the social and political state of Italy both before her birth and during her youth had a significant impact on her life. It is from these circumstances that she emerges as what many consider to be "the greatest political interviewer of modern times."

    Another major influence in Fallaci's life was her father, a liberal who had opposed Mussolini's rise to power and continued his opposition during the entire Fascist period. By the time Oriana reached the age of 10, Italy was involved in World War II. Joining her father in the underground resistance movement, she became a member of the Corps of Volunteers for Freedom to fight the Nazi's (Levy, 1975, p. 36). When Florence was occupied by Nazi troops during the war, Fallaci's father was captured, jailed and tortured before he was finally released alive. At the age of 14, Oriana received an honorable discharge from the Italian army (Arico, 1986, p. 587). The war ended in 1945, when Oriana was 15. Although experiencing these events at such an early age was difficult, Italian Fascism and World War II, as well as her father's liberal resistance, were to be major influences on Fallaci throughout her life.

    At the age of 16, Fallaci "discovered the power of words, and decided to become a writer" (Levy, 1975, p. 37). As she describes it: "I sat at the typewriter for the first time and fell in love with the words that emerged like drops, one by one, and remained on the white sheet of paper ... every drop became something that if spoken would have flown away, but on the sheets as words, became solidified, whether they were good or bad" (Levy, 1975, p. 37). She began her career as a journalist with a crime column in an Italian daily paper, but her abilities quickly won her recognition and worldwide assignments to interview political figures as well as international events (Levy, 1975, p. 39). She currently works for the Italian magazine, Europeo, but also contributes to other magazines in both Europe and South America (Arico, 1986, p. 587). Her love of words and a full understanding of their power is evident to anyone who reads Fallaci's work. Her writing is insightful, complex and full of vivid description.

    It is Fallaci's focus on power relationships as well as her interviewing and writing style which place her far ahead of others in the field. Fallaci's focus on power and the use and abuse of power is evident in her interviews with political officials throughout the world. She has interviewed such figures as former CIA Director William Colby, Pakistani Prime Minister Ali Bhutto, and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, concentrating on their roles as dominant figures in the international political system.

    One of her most famous political interviews, at least in the minds of Americans, was with former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Prior to Fallaci's interview, Kissinger had revealed little to the press about his life and personality (Levy, 1975, p. 38). However, during her questioning, Fallaci kept after the Secretary of State to explain the star-like status he enjoyed as a diplomat. Initially he dodged the question, but after relentless prodding by Fallaci, Kissinger gave in. He said, "Sometimes I see myself as a cowboy leading the caravan alone astride his horse, a wild west tale if you like" (Fallaci, 1976, p. 22). By getting Kissinger to reveal this romantic image, Fallaci gave the entire world insight into how this world leader saw himself. As biographer Elizabeth Levy points out, "... Kissinger's actions affect our world. How he treats other world leaders is somewhat dependent on how he thinks of himself" (1975, p. 39). By likening himself to a cowboy figure on a horse, Kissinger revealed that he saw himself as a heroic, imposing leader who controlled much of the direction of U.S. politics and, therefore, international politics as well. As a result of this interview, Kissinger received criticism for months afterward. Even years later, Kissinger still referred to the Fallaci interview as "the most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press" (Peer, 1980, p. 90). It is interesting to note, however, that Fallaci considers her interview with Kissinger one of the worst she's ever had (Bonfante, 1975, p. 69).

    Fallaci's focus on power relationships is not limited to her interviews with politicians. Some of her interviews with celebrities include Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, Italian film director Frederico Fellini, and actor Sean Connery. In addition to interviewing celebrities, Fallaci has also done work with people who may not be obvious choices for discussing power relationships. As her November, 1964 interview with entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. illustrates, Fallaci is also concerned with how people confront oppressive power in their lives. From a 1996 perspective, Sammy Davis, Jr. might not seem an obvious choice to discuss confronting power. After all, he is a singer, a dancer, an actor/entertainer who starred on Broadway. However, when Fallaci interviewed him in 1964, her logic was clear-cut. She sums up her reasons in the very first question: "On my way to your house, Mr. Davis, I had a very disturbing thought. You have absolutely everything to make you hated by the multitudes of mean-minded and stupid people: you're a Negro, a Jew, married to a beautiful blond ... truly there's no other internationally famous person who contrives to combine so many 'sins' into one." And she concluded: "Goodness, this man must positively enjoy doing battle with the world, irritating people, provoking them, defying them..." (Fallaci, 1968, p. 227).

    As Fallaci so expertly points out, Davis was confronting oppressive power every day. Davis was a Jew in a time when many in the world expressed anti-Semitism. He was a black man during a period when issues of race where at the forefront of the American political scene and when parts of the United States, particularly in the south, were openly racist. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing with organizations such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee using peaceful protest as a way to combat racism. Add to these the fact that Davis was a homely man with a broken nose and a glass eye yet married to a beautiful, blond, white woman, Mai Britt, who was an actress but gave it up to marry Davis and have his children. Even for liberals who might have accepted racial equality in theory, the issues surrounding interracial marriage and bi-racial children were far from accepted in almost any region of the U.S. during that time. Alone, any of these aspects would have been overwhelming. However, Davis was black, a Jew, and married to a white woman. It is upon this unique confrontation and defiance of dominant perceptions of right and wrong that Fallaci so artfully constructs the interview. Years later, in her introduction of the Davis interview for her book, The Egotists, Fallaci refers to the love story of Sammy Davis, Jr. and Mai Britt as "a fairy tale, the tale of the princess and the toad" (1968, p. 226). And yet she makes it clear to the reader that this man deserves the utmost respect for challenging much of what he feels is unjust in the society in which he lives. As Fallaci says, "As the minutes, the hours, passed, he grew steadily less ugly, until he almost wasn't ugly, and then he wasn't ugly at all, and then he was almost beautiful, and then beautiful..." (1968, p. 226). Only a person with Fallaci's insight could so perfectly convey that beauty is not what a person looks like, but what he or she stands and fights for.

    A final area which must be given attention is Fallaci's writing style. As one researcher describes it, "What makes her approach different is the degree of commitment and passion that she brings to journalism" (Arico, 1986, p. 587). It is this commitment and passion which makes her style so unique. Rather than focus only on the questions and answers of an interview, Fallaci tells the reader everything she is thinking, seeing, hearing and feeling. In other words, she gives the reader the experience of the interview. A clear example of this is seen in Fallaci's description of her interview with Yasser Arafat. She records everything about Arafat's appearance, to the point that an image forms in the readers mind. She talks of his "thick, Arab mustache and his short height which, combined with small hands and feet, fat legs, a massive trunk, huge hips, and a swollen belly, made him appear rather odd" (Fallaci, 1976, p. 123). In addition, Fallaci describes his head and face in great detail, noting "...he has almost no cheeks or forehead, everything is summed up in a large mouth with red and fleshy lips, an aggressive nose, and two eyes that hypnotize you" (Fallaci, 1976, p. 124). It might be argued that these details have little to do with a man who is known worldwide for his actions in the Middle East. However, by including this detailed description, Fallaci gives the reader the feeling of actually being there with her as she conducts the interview. In this way, she brings the reader closer to Arafat and makes them care about how his actions affect the world.

    This unique style is also evidenced in Fallaci's interviews and research concerning the American Space Program. Beginning in 1965, she did research and interviews with the intent of addressing what she considered the ultimate question concerning this program: "Why should anyone want to know about astronauts, space, and the moon?" (Levy, 1975, p. 41). The result of her query was her book, If the Sun Dies, arranged as a long letter to her father. Throughout the book, Fallaci invests personal feelings and sensations in the writing. For example, when she goes to Los Angeles to interview science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, Fallaci gives the reader her personal reaction to L.A. She writes: "Nothing is moving except the cars; nothing grows except plastic. I take a walk and I feel I am the only one walking is Los Angeles. I trip and fall on the grass, only to discover it really is plastic. There is no one to help me up, only cars, and cars don't have arms to reach out to me... I had reached Los Angeles, the first stage of my journey into the future and into myself" (Levy, 1975, p. 40). By describing L.A. from her personal perspective, she draws the reader in which allows a deeper understanding of the rest of the book.

    While conducting her research on the U.S. Space Program, Fallaci also interviews scientist Werner Von Braun. Von Braun is a former Nazi soldier who worked as a scientist for Hitler's government. He was responsible for the invention of the V-2 rockets which were used to bomb London during World War II, resulting in the deaths of over 3,000 and wounding over 68,000. Toward the end of the war, when he and fellow scientists were certain defeat for Germany was near, they decided to leave their legacy of the bombs, which could also be used for space travel, to the Americans (Levy, 1975, p. 42). Because of her background as a member of the resistance movement which fought the Nazi's during the war, as well as her feelings about the Nazi's who arrested, tortured, and jailed her father, Fallaci was bound to have a strong reaction to Von Braun. She admits this in her recount of the interview. Yet the transcripts show that her questions remained focused on Von Braun's importance to the U.S. Space Program and despite her strong anti-Nazi feelings, she does describe Von Braun fairly. She portrays him as a man who possesses positive qualities despite his background (Levy, 1975, p. 43). However, as she writes to her father about Von Braun, Fallaci again exhibits her unique style by investing some of her personal feelings into the retelling of the interview. As Levy writes: "But Fallaci tells the reader about the internal dialogue that was going on while she was interviewing Von Braun. She kept smelling lemon on Von Braun's breath, and the memory of the lemon scent was disturbing. She can't remember where she smelled that lemon scent before" (1975, p. 44). Few journalists use the technique of placing personal feelings in their writing, and fewer still do so to the extent of discussing what they smell during an interview. But Fallaci does and this technique is effective because it draws the reader into both the interview and the problem which she is struggling with: Where has she smelled that lemon scent before? Finally she remembers. She says, "Remember the German soldiers, all washed with disinfectant soap that smelled like lemon. We all loathed that scent of lemon" (Levy, 1975, p. 46). By investing so much of her feelings and her personal history into the telling of this interview, Fallaci allows the reader to experience some of what she has gone through. In this way, the reader gains a deeper understanding of and appreciation for not only the origins of the U.S. Space Program, but also of Fallaci.

    In addition to being a world-renowned journalist, Fallaci has also written several works of fiction. As in her journalism, Fallaci's novels address issues of power. However, they seem to focus more on dealing with and resisting power, than on those who possess power and use it in an oppressive manner. Instead, she writes from the perspective of the oppressed. In Letter to a Child Never Born, for example, Fallaci writes from the perspective of a single woman who finds herself pregnant as a result of a casual affair. The protagonist does not love the man, nor does she wish to marry him for the sake of the child. He encourages her to abort, even though abortion is illegal at that time, and tells her how stigmatized she will be as a single mother. By writing down the thoughts and feelings of a single woman who is faced with such difficult choices, Fallaci exposes the fact that the "choices" which are available for pregnant, single women are not adequate. Abortion, giving the child up for adoption, marrying the father in an attempt to maintain propriety, or choosing to raise the child as a single parent, all carry lifelong consequences and stigmatization. It is not, from Fallaci's perspective, a matter of choosing one over the others. It is merely choosing the one you can best live with. Fallaci's other works of fiction also reflect her fascination with power. Her novel, A Man, although fiction, is based heavily on Fallaci's dead lover Alexandros Panagoulis and his confrontation of power as a leader of the Greek resistance. As Fallaci herself describes it, "It is a book about the hero who fights alone for freedom and for truth, never giving up, and so he dies, killed by all..." (Fallaci, 1980, p. iv). Inshallah, Fallaci's 1992 novel, concerns itself with the civil war in Lebanon. As in her other works of fiction, she addresses groups and individuals who work to bring an end to their oppression.

    Fallaci began her life in a very difficult situation. As a result of growing up in Fascist Italy during Mussolini's dictatorship, she developed an interest in power and how power is abused. However, because of her father and her activities in the resistance movement, she also gained the sense that abuses of power can be challenged and resisted and even overcome. It is these factors which have so heavily influenced Fallaci's writing and which, along with her unique interviewing and writing style, have established her as what many refer to as the greatest political interviewer of modern times.


Arico, Santo
1986 Breaking the Ice. An In-Depth Look at Oriana Fallaci's Interview Techniques. Journalism Quarterly, Autumn 1986: 587-93.
Bonfante, Jordan
1975 An Interview as a Love Story. Time 20 October: 69-73.
Fallaci, Oriana
       * The Useless Sex
       * Penelope at War
1963 The Egotists: Sixteen Surprising Interviews. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.
       * If the Sun Dies
       * Nothing and So Be It
1976 Interview with History. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.
1976 Letter to a Child Never Born New York: Simon and Schuster.
1980 A Man New York: Simon and Schuster.
1992 Inshallah. New York: Doubleday.
Franks, Lucinda
Behind the Fallaci Image. Saturday Review Jan 1981: 18-22.
Gilbert, Mark
1995 The Italian Revolution: the End of Politics Italian Style? San Francisco: Westview Press.
Ginsborg, Paul
A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988. London: Penguin Books.
Griffith, Thomas
1981 Interviews: Soft or Savage? Time 30 March: 47.
Levy, Elizabeth
By-Lines: Profiles in Investigative Journalism New York: Four Winds Press.
Peer, Elizabeth
The Fallaci Papers. Newsweek 1 Dec: 90.
Raffaelli, Pier

* Other books by Oriana Fallaci not used in this paper

© 1996 Jill M. Duquaine

Most recent revision Tuesday, April 29, 2008
© 2008 wa3key