Oriana Fallaci, Right or Wrong

Nina Burleigh in the New York Times:

05Burleigh-articleLargeSomeone should write an opera about her: La Fallaci, beautiful, extravagant, courageous survivor of war and tempestuous love affairs, speaker of truth to power. But for now, Cristina De Stefano’s new biography of the Italian journalistic superstar Oriana Fallaci — unabashed hagiography to counter the writer’s late-life reputational demise — must suffice.

Fallaci was born in 1929 to working-class parents and proved her dauntlessness as a tiny, pigtailed bike messenger for anti-Fascists in World War II Florence, when she was just 14. By her early 20s, she was in Rome covering Hollywood on the Tiber, honing her craft on fizzy stories about European royals and Italian movie goddesses. Eventually she began traveling frequently to California, lounging poolside with more movie stars and filing more stories. She got herself assigned to cover NASA and the astronauts she adored (one of whom, De Stefano speculates rather fancifully, fathered one of Fallaci’s pregnancies, which ended in a miscarriage).

Fallaci then moved on to the subjects that made her famous: war and global politics. Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger, Deng Xiaoping, Ariel Sharon and Ayatollah Khomeini were just a few of the world leaders and statesmen who submitted to her trademark hourslong interviews, enduring her provocative questions while sharing breaks with her ubiquitous cigarettes.

Her interviews remain studies in speaking truth to power. Interviewing Ayatollah Khomeini, she famously called the chador a “stupid, medieval rag” and took it off, provoking the Ayatollah to leave the room. (It is a testament to her journalistic power that he came back the next day.)

More here.