The Italian Almanac

Oriana Fallaci

Italian News - September 15

Controversial crusading journalist Oriana Fallaci died Thursday night in her native Florence after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 77. Fallaci, a radical campaigner, war correspondent and scourge of the powerful who returned to her Catholic roots in her final years, sparked a storm with anti-Islam books after the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.

The Rage and the Pride (2002) shocked many of her old admirers but won her new ones as she slammed Islam as "oppressive" and Arab immigrants in Europe as "bigoted". Defying political correctness, she followed up in similar vein two years later in The Force of Reason, saying that Europe risked becoming 'Eurabia' and had "sold itself like a whore to sultans".

Fallaci first showed her combative spirit in joining the anti-fascist Resistance at the age of 17. She was later a correspondent in Vietnam, the Indo-Pakistani and Middle East conflicts, and South American uprisings. She was wounded in 1968 at a protest against the Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Working for Italy's leading newspaper Corriere della Sera and the newsweekly l'Europeo, Fallaci won renown with a series of prickly interviews with some of the world's most powerful figures including Henry Kissinger, Golda Meir, Yasser Arafat, General Giap, Colonel Gheddafi, Indira Ghandi, Deng Xiaoping and Ayatollah Khomeini - defiantly whipping off the headscarf the Iranians forced her to wear. She harangued Kissinger into calling the Vietnam War "useless" - an admission that later prompted him to call the interview "the single most disastrous conversation I ever had with a member of the press".

She also worked for leading publications across Europe and the United States including the The Washington Post, the New York Times, Life, the New Republic, Le Nouvelle Observateur and Stern. Fallaci wrote best-selling works of fiction and semi-fiction including Letter To An Unborn Child (1975), which topped the charts in Italy for years, A Man (1979), the story of the love of her life, tragic Greek leftist Alekos Panagulis, and Inshallah (1990) - her last publication before her anti-Islam tirade 12 years later.

Spurning the Italian intellectual elite, Fallaci lived most of her later years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She returned to Florence recently to fight the disease that was killing her.