Fallaci, Oriana (Writer)

(1930- ) novelist, journalist

An accomplished journalist who has had the opportunity to interview some of the most remarkable political figures of the 20th century, Oriana Fallaci was born in Florence, Italy, on June 29. The daughter of a cabinetmaker and liberal political activist, her childhood coincided with Mussolini’s rise to power. Growing up under a fascist regime, she became interested in power and the ways in which it can be both used and abused.

By the time Fallaci was 10 years old, Italy was deeply involved in World War II. One of her greatest influences throughout her life came from this period and the political views of her very liberal father, who opposed Mussolini. Fallaci joined her father as a member of the underground resistance movements that were dedicated to fighting the Nazis, who were allied with Italy. During this period, her father was captured, sent to jail, and tortured. Fallaci continued to fight in his absence, receiving, at age 14, an honorable discharge from the Italian army. The war ended when she was 15, but the effects of having been so directly involved with the struggle remained ingrained in her mind and formed the background for her future work as an author and journalist.

Fallaci began writing at age 16. She received a degree from the University of Florence and went on to become an award-winning writer for several newspapers. Her first journalistic assignment was to a crime column at a daily paper, but she rapidly progressed and soon was interviewing such political figures as U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, CIA director William Colby, and Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. She has also interviewed actors and scientists and conducted intensive research on the U.S. space program.

Aside from her accomplishments as a journalist, Fallaci is also an accomplished novelist. Her works of fiction also address the subject of power, particularly in terms of resistance. Letter to a Child Never Born (1976), for example, tackles the subject of an unwed pregnant woman who is faced with the difficult choice between having an illegal abortion or keeping the child and facing the social stigma. In this case, the power struggle comes in the form of cultural perceptions and the control they exert on the individual’s decision-making processes.

Fallaci maintained a long-term relationship with political activist and Greek resistance leader Alexandros Panagoulis. His death in 1976 prompted her novel A Man (1980). Although fictional, this work expresses the challenges of confrontation and resistance to political power structures. Similarly, her novel Inshallah (1992) tackles these themes by restructuring the setting to illuminate the same challenges with regard to the civil war in Lebanon.

Fallaci continues to write. Her works are important for their contemporary social and political implications and the glimpse they provide at social conditions.

Other Works by Oriana Fallaci

Interview with History. New York: Liveright, 1976.

The Egoists: Sixteen Surprising Interviews. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1963.

Works about Oriana Fallaci

Arico, Santo L. Oriana Fallaci: The Woman and the Myth. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.

Gatt-Rutter, John. Oriana Fallaci: The Rhetoric of Freedom. Washington, D.C.: Berg, 1996.

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