From 'The Times' [UK] - September 16, 2006
Journalist of brutal honesty whose interviews with the world’s leading personalities left few unscathed
Subjectivity and passion are characteristics not always conducive to successful journalism. But Oriana Fallaci made them her watchwords and combined them with a brutal honesty. It was as much her fiery and unforgiving personality that made her Italy’s best-known and most controversial exponent of her trade as her record of revealing interviews with the likes of the Ayatollah Khomeini and Henry Kissinger.
It was her abundant rage and pride that in the last years of her life brought her both her widest readership and led to her being charged by an Italian court last year with the crime of denigrating Islam.
Fallaci’s sense of mission sprang from a childhood spent under Mussolini, and specifically in German-occupied Florence, where her father was one of the leaders of the Resistance. Thereafter she became preoccupied with power, its abuse and those who wielded it. She saw herself principally as a representative of the voiceless and repressed — especially women — and used her interviews fearlessly, even recklessly, to challenge those in authority.
Her articles did not read as dialogues, much less as a coolly objective profile of her subject, but as abrasive statements of her position on matters such as the Cold War or Islam’s teaching on women. This peculiarly Italian directness — what her race sees as an avoidance of the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy of false politeness — she once justified thus: “I am the judge. I’m the one who decides. Listen, if I was a painter and I was doing your portrait, have I or haven’t I the right to paint you as I want?”
This stand inevitably led her many critics to criticise her as an egomaniac, but despite her reputation she consistently succeeded in catching her interviewees off-guard. Thus when in his pomp, Kissinger admitted to her that he pictured himself as a lone cowboy waiting for the caravan to catch up with him, a remark which undermined his standing; he later reflected that it was the most disastrous admission he had ever made to the press. In 1972 similarly incautious comments about Indira Ghandi by Pakistan’s leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, jeopardised a projected peace treaty between the countries. For his part, meanwhile, Khomeini admired Fallaci’s cheek when she wore make-up to their interview and vented her spleen about the indignities of the chador.
Though her temperament was of the Left, the keystone of it was the value she placed on personal freedom, a trait which led her into an almost unquestioning admiration of the United States. Latterly, she had made her home in Manhattan, and it was the events of September 11, 2001, that triggered the last and most contentious phase of her career, as a polemicist.
Two weeks after the attacks she wrote for an Italian newspaper a hostile critique of Islam — specifically, of the demands of Muslims to follow their cultural practices in the predominantly Christian West. The highly positive reception with which this met in her home country, one of the most homogenous and least multi-cultural in Europe, prompted her to expand it to book length, as La rabbia e l’orgoglio (The Rage and the Pride, 2002). It sold more than a million copies in Italy and several hundred thousand elsewhere in Europe.
Since its literary merits were slim, reading, as it did, as part memoir, part intemperate call-to-arms, its arguments rarely coherent, its success must be attributed to its having caught the mood of the times. Ironically, though one of Fallaci’s concerns was that what she saw as the servility of Europeans in the face of Islam’s imperial ambitions was caused by their having forgotten the lessons of the Second World War, the cheap potency of The Rage and the Pride recalls above all the rabble-rousing of the Fascist leaders.
As the War on Terror progressed, Fallaci followed it with several other publications of the same kind, notably La forza della ragione (The Force of Reason, 2005). Amid a round of attacks on her in the press by moderates and extremists alike, Fallaci was charged by the Italian authorities with vilifying a religion recognised by the State. She had hoped to live to testify at her trial, but the case never came to court. For some years she had been suffering from cancer and her condition worsened. A few days ago she returned to her home town, and she died in a Florence clinic.
Oriana Fallaci, the eldest of three sisters, was born in Florence in 1929. Her father was a cabinet-maker who early became active in the anti-Fascist movement, while her paternal uncle was a noted journalist.
Among her early memories was seeing Hitler when he visited Florence in 1938. In 1943, she and her family took refuge in a church when the Germans began blowing up the Arno bridges. Seeing her crying in terror, her father slapped her and told her that she must never show her tears again, an admonition she took to heart. After leaving the Liceo Galileo at 16, she enrolled briefly in the medical school at Florence University, but having decided that she wanted to write she then took a job with a local newspaper, working first on the crime beat.
By the mid-1950s, she was a correspondent for Italian magazines such as Epoca and L’Europeo, soon coming to specialise in wars. “What really pushes me is my obsession with death,” she said. She reported from Vietnam, where she irritated many liberals by criticising what she saw as the North’s Stalinist regime. Many years later she covered the Iraqi defeat in Kuwait.
She published her first book, an examination of Hollywood’s ills, in 1958. But for much of her career the books on which her literary reputation depended were the novels Lettera a un bambino mai nato (Letter to a Child Never Born, 1975) and Un uomo (A Man, 1979). Both stemmed from the most important romantic relationship of her life, that with the Greek political activist Alekos Panagoulis, whose lover she became two days after interviewing him. Panagoulis had been imprisoned and tortured in the late 1960s for planning to assassinate members of Greece’s military regime, and in 1976 he died in a car accident that many assumed to be murder.
He and Fallaci had been together for a stormy three years, and the two novels celebrate both the child of his that she was carrying but lost, and his political struggle. Like her other most notable work, Insciallah (1992), a fictional account of the Italian involvement in Beirut during the civil war, the books are uneven mixtures of headlong prose, unprocessed emotion, shrewd insight and bathos, dominated by an inescapable authorial voice.
Oriana Fallaci was short of stature and always elegantly, even severely dressed. She lived in spartan fashion, working slowly and obsessively, her only vice being cigarettes. Though an atheist, she was an admirer of the present Pope, who she liked to think shared her concerns about Islam.
Oriana Fallaci, journalist and author, was born on July 29, 1929. She died of cancer on September 15, 2006, aged 77.
From 'La rabbia e l'orgoglio' (Rage and Pride) by Oriana Fallaci
Translated by Chris Knipp
You ask me to speak this time. You ask me-this time at least-to break the silence that for years I have imposed upon myself in order that my voice not get mixed up with the sound of the cicadas. And I will break that silence-because I have learned that even in Italy some have rejoiced as the Palestinians in Gaza did the other night on TV. "Victory! Victory!" Men, women, and children. I assume that those who do such a thing can be defined as men, women, and children. I have learned that some high grade cicadas, politicians or so-called politicians, intellectuals or so-called intellectuals, and others who don't deserve to be called citizens, have behaved in the same way. "Good!" they say, "The Americans deserve it!" And I'm very, very, very angry. I'm angry with a cool, lucid, rational anger, an anger that wipes out any detachment, any indulgence, that commands me to answer, and finally to spit on them. And I do spit on them. The African- American poet Maya Angelou, herself as angry as I am, yesterday roared: "Be angry! It's good to be angry, it's healthy!" But whether or not it's healthy for me I don't know. However I do know it's not healthy for them-I mean whoever admires the Usama bin Ladens, whoever expresses understanding, sympathy, or solidarity toward them. You've fired a detonator that has too long wanted to explode, with your request. You'll see. You've also asked me to explain how I myself experienced this apocalypse. In sum, to furnish my own testimony. And so I shall begin with that. I was at home-my house is in the center of Manhattan, and at exactly nine o'clock I had the sensation of a danger that probably would not touch me, but that certainly concerned me. The sensation one feels in war-or rather in combat-which each pore of your skin feels the bullet or the rocket coming in at you, and you prick up your ears and shout to whoever is standing beside you "Down! Get down!" I rejected it. I was certainly not in Vietnam. I was not in one of those fucking wars that have made a torment of my life ever since the Second World War. I was in New York, for God's sake, on a beautiful September morning in the year 2001. But the inexplicable feeling continued to possess me. Then I did something that in the morning I never do. I turned on the television. Actually, the audio wasn't working. But the screen was. And on each channel-here you have almost a hundred of them-you saw one tower of the World Trade Center burning like a gigantic matchstick. A short circuit? A little, careless plane? Or an act of terrorism? I stared almost paralyzed and while I was staring, while I was posing those three questions to myself, a plane appeared on the screen. It was big and white. A commercial airliner. It was flying very low. And, flying very low, it turned toward the second tower as a bomber aims at its target-throws itself at its target. And I understood. I understood also because at that moment the audio came back, transmitting a chorus of wild shouts. Repeated, wild shouts. "God, oh God! Oh, God! God! God! Goooooood!" And the plane slipped into the second tower as a knife slips into a slab of butter.
It was now a quarter past nine. Don't ask me what I felt during those fifteen minutes. I don't know; I don't remember. I was a piece of ice. Even my brain was ice. I can't remember if I saw certain things on the first tower or on the second. The people who in order not to die by being burned alive threw themselves out of the windows of the eightieth or ninetieth floors, for example. They broke the glass in the windows; climbed over it; threw themselves out the same way you throw yourself from a plane when you have a parachute on, and they came down so slowly, waving their arms and legs, swimming in the air. Yes, they seemed to be swimming in the air-and never arriving. Towards the thirtieth floor, however, they speeded up. They began to gesticulate desperately, regretful, I think, almost as if they were yelling "Help...help!". And I guess maybe they really did yell. Finally they fell like stones and, pow! You know, I was sure I had seen everything in war. I've felt that I've been made immune to war, and in substance I am. Nothing surprises me. Not even when I'm angry, not even when I feel contempt. But In war I always saw people die from being killed. I never saw people die by killing themselves, that is, by throwing themselves from the windows of the eightieth or ninetieth or hundredth floors. Moreover in war I always saw something bursting. Exploding fanwise. I always heard a great noise. Those two Towers, on the other hand didn't explode. The first one imploded, it swallowed itself. The second one fused, it blew itself apart. It fused because of heat, like a slab of butter on the fire. And it all happened, or so it seemed to me, in a tomblike silence. Is this possible? Was there really that silence, or was it inside me? I also have to tell you that in wars I always saw a limited number of deaths. With every combat, two or three hundred dead. At most four hundred. At Dak To, in Vietnam, for example. And when the combat ended and the Americans set about gathering them up, counting them, I couldn't believe my eyes. At the slaughter of Mexico City, in which I too took on my fair share of bullets, they collected at least eight hundred dead. And when, thinking me dead, they hurled me into the morgue, it seemed almost a flood of cadavers that I suddenly found all around me. Well, almost fifty thousand people worked in the Twin Towers. And very few of them escaped in time. The elevators didn't work any more, obviously, and to come down on foot from the top floors took an eternity. If the flames permitted. We'll never know the number of dead. (Forty thousand, forty-five thousand?) The Americans will never say this. So as not to underline the intensity of this apocalypse. So as not to give satisfaction to Usama Bin Laden and not to encourage other apocalypses. And then, the two abysses that absorbed the tens of thousands of creatures are too deep. At most the workmen will disinter little pieces of scattered limbs. A nose here, a finger there. Or a kind of mud that seems to be coffee grounds but instead is organic matter. The remains of bodies that in a flash were pulverized. Yesterday Mayor Giuliani sent another ten thousand body bags. But they have remained unused.
What do I feel for the kamikazes who died with them? No respect. No pity. No, not even pity-I who in all circumstances have always ended by giving in to pity. I've always disliked Kamikazes, that is to say people who commit suicide by killing other people, beginning from the Japanese in World War Two. I never considered them Pietro Micca, who set fire to the ashes and burned with the city, Turin, to block the arrival of enemy troops. I never considered them soldiers. And far less do I consider them martyrs or heroes, as Mr. Arafat, screeching and spitting saliva at on me, defined them in 1972. (That is, when I interviewed him in Amman, the place where his officers also trained the Baader-Meinhof terrorists). I consider them showoffs and nothing more. They are showoffs who instead of seeking glory in the movies or politics or sports seek it in their own death and the deaths of others. And, in the case of those who pray to Allah, a place in the Paradise of which the Koran speaks: the paradise in which heroes fuck the Uri. I bet they are showoffs physically too. I have in front of me the photo of the two kamikazes of whom I speak in my Insha'allah, the novel that begins with the destruction of the American base (over four hundred dead) and the French one (over three hundred fifty dead) in Beirut. They had it shot before going to die, that photograph, and before going to die they went to the barbershop. Look what a pretty haircut. What pomaded moustaches, what beautiful beards, what fetching side-whiskers.
Ah, who knows how Mr. Arafat would sizzle with rage, listening to me! There's bad blood between us, you know. He never forgave me either the powerful differences of opinion we had during that interview nor the judgment of him I expressed in my book Interview with History. As for me, I never forgave him for anything. Including the fact that one Italian journalist who'd been so unwise as to present himself as my "friend" got a revolver pointed at his heart. Consequently, we don't frequent each other's company any more. Too bad. Because if I met him again, or rather if I were to grant him an audience, I'd shout in his face who the martyrs and the heroes are. I'd shout: Distinguished Mr. Arafat, the martyrs are the passengers of those four airplanes taken over and transformed into human bombs. Among them the four-year-old child who disintegrated in the second Tower. Distinguished Mr. Arafat, the martyrs are the clerks working in the Towers and in the Pentagon. Distinguished Mr. Arafat, the martyrs are the employees who worked in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Distinguished Mr. Arafat, the martyrs are the firemen who died trying to save them. And do you know who the heroes are? They're the passengers of the flight that was to have been thrown into the White House and instead burst into a wood in Pennsylvania because they rebelled! They indeed deserve Paradise, distinguished Mr. Arafat. The trouble is that you are a Chief of State ad perpetuum. You play the monarch, you visit the Pope, you say you don't like terrorism, you send condolences to Bush, and with your chameleon-like capacity for lying, you'd be able to answer that I'm right. But let's change the subject. I'm very ill, you know, and talking to Arafat gives me a fever.
I prefer to speak of the invulnerability that so many, in Europe, attribute to America. Invulnerability? What kind of invulnerability?!? The more a society is a democratic and open one, the more it is exposed to terrorism. The more a country is free and not governed by a police regime, the more it undergoes or risks the hijackings or massacres that happened for so many years in Italy and Germany and in other parts of Europe-and that, grown gigantic, are happening now in America. It's not by chance that the non-democratic Countries, governed by police regimes, have always hosted and financed, and are assisting terrorists. The Soviet Union, the Soviet Union's satellite nations, and the People's Republic of China, for instance. Khaddafi's Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria; Arafat's Lebanon; the same Egypt, the same Saudi Arabia of which Usama Bin Laden is a subject; Pakistan; of course Afghanistan and all the Islamic regions of Africa. In the airports and on the airplanes of these countries I have always felt safe. The only thing I feared was being arrested because I wrote bad things about terrorists. In European airports and on European planes, on the other hand, I have always felt a bit nervous. In American airports and on American planes I'm very nervous. And in New York I'm extremely nervous. (Not in Washington, I have to say. I really didn't expect a plane to hit the Pentagon.) In my judgment, then, it was never a question of "if;" it was always a question of "when." Why do you think that on Tuesday morning my subconscious felt that worry, that sensation of danger? Why do you think that, contrary to my usual custom, I switched on the TV? Why do you think that one of the three questions that I asked myself while the first tower burned and the audio wasn't working was about a plot? And why do you think I got it as soon as the second plane appeared? Since America is the strongest country in the world, the richest, the most powerful, the most modern, we were almost all trapped by that snare. Americans too, at times. But America's vulnerability comes precisely from its strength, its wealth, its power, its modernity--the old story of the dog that eats its own tail.
This grows out of the country's multi-ethnic nature too, out of its liberalism, its respect for its citizens and its guests. An example: about twenty-four million Americans are Arab-Moslems: And when a Mustafa or a Muhammad comes, let's say, from Afghanistan to visit his uncle, nobody forbids him from attending flight training school to learn how to fly a 757. Nobody forbids him from enrolling at a university (something that I hope will change) to study chemistry or biology-the two sciences you need to begin a bacteriological war--not even if the government fears that this son of Allah might hijack a 757 or throw a vial full of bacteria into the water supply, bringing on a massacre. (I say "if," because this time the government didn't know a damned thing, and the CIA's and the FBI's foul-ups were infinite. If I were President of the United States I would kick them all out for their foolishness.) So let's come back to the original point. What are the symbols of the strength, wealth, power and modernity of America? Certainly not jazz and rock and roll, chewing hum and hamburgers, Broadway and Hollywood. They are its skyscrapers, its Pentagon. It's science, its technology. Those impressive skyscrapers, so high, so beautiful that when you look up a them you almost forget the Pyramids and the divine palaces of our past. Those gigantic, exaggerated airplanes, that now are used as once sailing vessels and trucks were used, because now everything moves with airplanes. Everything. The mail, fresh fish, we ourselves (And don't forget that it's they who invented air war. Or at least developed it to the point of hysteria). That terrifying Pentagon, that fortress that is frightening just to look at. That omnipresent, omnipotent science. That chilling technology that in a few short years has transformed our daily existence, our age-old ways of communicating, eating, living. And where did the Reverend Usama bin Laden hit them? On the skyscrapers, on the Pentagon. How? With airplanes, with science, with technology. By the way: know what impressed me most about this sad multimillionaire, this failed playboy who instead of flirting with blond princesses and acting crazy in nightclubs (as he did in Beirut when he was twenty) now amuses himself by killing people in the name of Muhammad and Allah? The fact that even his immense wealth derives from the earnings of a corporation specialized in demolition, that he himself is a demolition expert. Demolition is an American specialty.
When we met I saw how astonished you were by the heroic efficiency and admirable unity with which Americans had confronted this apocalypse. Oh, yes. America has many things to teach us; notwithstanding its shortcomings which they and I myself throw in its face. (But those of Europe and in particular of Italy are still more serious.) Concerning heroic efficiency let me say a paean of praise for the Mayor of New York: that Rudolph Giuliani whom we Italians should bow down to thank on bended knee. Because he has an Italian surname and is of Italian origin, he does us honor throughout the world. Rudolph Giuliani is a great, indeed the greatest of mayors. I'm telling you this as one who's never happy with anything or anyone, starting with myself. He's a mayor worthy of another very great mayor with an Italian surname, Fiorello La Guardia, and so many of our mayors should go to school to him. They should go with bowed heads, better yet with ash on their heads, and ask him, "Mister Giuliani, please tell us how it's done?" He doesn't delegate his duties to the others, no. He doesn't lose his time with plugs and greed. He doesn't combine his mayoral position with a ministry or legislative duties. (Is there no one listening to me in Stendhal's three towns-in Naples, Florence or Rome?). Having run immediately, and immediately entered the second skyscraper, he risked being turned into ash with the others. He was saved by a hair and by chance. And in the course of four days he got the city back on its feet. A city that has nine and a half million inhabitants, please note, two million in Manhattan alone. I don't know how he succeeded in doing it. He is as ill as I am, poor man. Cancer that comes and comes again, also took him. Like me, he pretends to be healthy, goes on working anyway. But damn it, I work at a table, remaining seated. He, on the other hand.... He seemed like a general who personally takes part in the battle. A soldier who throws himself into the attack with his bayonet. "Come on people, come on! Let's roll up our shirt sleeves, fast!" He could do it because those people were, are, as he is. People without ostentation or laziness, my father would have said, and with balls. As for the admirable capacity to unite, the almost warlike compact with which Americans respond to horrors and to an enemy, well, I have to admit that there and then it astonished even me. Yes, I knew that it burst forth at the time of Pearl Harbor, when people rallied round Roosevelt and Roosevelt went to war against Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy and Hirohito's Japan. I got a sense of it after Kennedy's assassination, it's true. But this was followed by the war in Vietnam, the terrible division caused by that war, and in a certain sense that had reminded me of their Civil War a century and a half ago. So when I saw white people and black people weeping and embracing -I said embracing-when I saw democrats and republicans embracing as they sang "God Save America," when I saw all differences canceled, I was struck dumb. It was the same when I heard Bill Clinton (a person toward whom I've never nurtured tender feelings) declare "Let's draw close to Bush, let's have faith in our President." It was the same when his wife Hillary, now the Senator from New York, repeated the same words. It was the same when they were repeated by Lieberman, the ex-candidate for the vice Presidency. (Only the defeated Al Gore kept a squalid silence.) It was the same when the Congress voted unanimously to accept war, to punish those responsible. Ah, if Italy might learn this lesson! It's such a divided country, my Italy! So fractious, so poisoned by its tribal meanness! They hate themselves within parties too, in Italy. They can't even stay together when they bear the same emblem, the same symbol, for God's sake. They are jealous, bilious, vain, and petty. They think of nothing but their own interests, their little careers, their small glory, their own suburban popularity. For their own personal interests they are spiteful, they betray one another, they accuse, they disgrace themselves... I'm absolutely sure that if Usama Bin Laden blew up Giotto's Tower or the Tower of Pisa the government would blame the opposition party. The government bosses and the opposition bosses would blame their own companions and comrades. And having said that let me explain what the American capacity to stand united is born of.
It is born of their patriotism. I don't know if in Italy you saw and understood what happened in New York when Bush went to thank the working men (and the working women) who, digging in the rubble of the two towers, tried to save some survivors but brought out only a few noses and a few fingers. Without surrendering, all the same. Without resignation, for it you ask them how they are doing they answer: "I can allow myself to be exhausted, not to be defeated." All of them. The young ones, the very youngest, the old, the middle aged. White, black, yellow, brown, violet... Did you see them or didn't you? While Bush was thanking them they did nothing but wave little American flags, they raised their closed fists, and they roared: "U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A! In a totalitarian State I would have thought: "Wow, look how well the rulers have organized this!" Not in America. In America you don't organize these things. You don't manage them, you don't command them. Especially in a disenchanted metropolis like New York, with workers like the workers of New York. They're characters, the workers of New York, freer than the wind. They don't even obey their own unions. But if you touch the flag, if you touch the Patria... In English the word Patria doesn't exist. To say Patria you have to put together two words. "Father land." "Mother land." "Native land." Or you have to say simply "My Country." But there is the noun, "patriotic." And apart from France, I probably couldn't imagine a country more patriotic than America. Ah! I was very moved to see those workmen clasping their fists and waving their flags and roaring "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.," without anybody ordering them to do it. And I felt a kind of humiliation. Because Italian workmen waving the tricolor and roaring "Italy, Italy" is something I can't imagine. In funeral processions and political meetings I've seen them wave so many red flags. Rivers, lakes of red flags. But I always saw precious few waving tricolors. Really not a one. Badly guided or tyrannized by an arrogant left wing devoted to the Soviet Union, they always left tricolors to their adversaries. And it wasn't that their adversaries put them to good use, I wouldn't say. They didn't waste them, thank God. And those who go to mass, ditto. As for that boor with his green shirt and tie, he doesn't even know what the colors of the tricolor are. I-am-Lombard, I-am-Lombard-He'd like to take us back to the wars between Florence and Siena. Result: today the Italian flag is something you only see at the Olympics if by chance you win a medal. Or worse: you see it only in stadiums when there is an international soccer match. It's the only time, moreover, when you may be able to hear the shout, "Italy, Italy."
Oh, there's great difference between a country where the flag is waved by hooligans in stadiums and that's all, and a country where the flag is waved by an entire people. By, for instance, the unregimented workmen who dig in ruins to pull out a few ears or noses of those creatures slaughtered by the sons of Allah. Or to gather up those coffee grounds.
The fact is that America is a special country, my dear. A country to envy, to be jealous of for things that have nothing to do with wealth, etc. It's a special country because it was born out of a need of the soul, the need to have a patria, and out of the most sublime idea man has, the idea of freedom--or, better, the idea of freedom wedded with the idea of equality. It's a special country because at that time the idea of freedom wasn't in fashion. Nor was the idea of equality. Nobody talked about these things but certain philosophers called men of the Enlightenment. You didn't find them, these concepts, anywhere but in a very expensive big book in installments called The Encyclopedia. And apart from the writers and other intellectuals, apart from princes and lords, who had the money to buy the big book or the books that the big book inspired, who knew anything about the Enlightenment? It sure wasn't something to eat, the Enlightenment! The revolutionaries of the French revolution didn't even talk about it, seeing that the French revolution was to begin in 1789, or thirteen years after the American revolution which broke out in 1776. (Another detail that the good-for-the-Americans-they brought-it-on-themselves anti-Americans are unaware of or pretend to forget. Race of hypocrites.)
It's a special country America, a country to be envied, moreover, because that idea was understood by farmers who were poor and often illiterate or at any rate were uneducated. The farmers of the American colonies. And it was made real by a little group of extraordinary leaders. By men of great culture and of great quality. The founding fathers. Do you know who the founding fathers were, the Benjamin Franklins, the Thomas Jeffersons, the Thomas Paines, the John Adamses, the George Washingtons and so on? Better than the little lawyers (as Vittorio Alfieri rightly called them) of the French revolution! Better than the dark and hysterical executioners of terror, the Marats and Dantons and Saint Justs and Robespierres! These were guys, the founding fathers were, who knew Greek and Latin as Italian teachers of Greek and Latin (granted that they don't exist any more) never knew them. Guys who in Greek had read Aristotle and Plato, who in Latin had read Seneca and Cicero, and they had studied the principles of Greek democracy as not even the Marxists of my time studied the theory of surplus value. (I admit that they really did study it.) Jefferson even knew Italian. (He called it "Tuscan.") In Italian he spoke and read with great speed. In fact with the two thousand grape vines and the thousand olive plants and the musical chart that in Virginia was so rare, in 1774 the Florentine Filippo Mazzei had brought him various copies of a book written by a certain Cesare Beccaria entitled Of Crimes and of Punishments. As for the autodidact Franklin, he was a genius. A scientist, printer, editor, writer, journalist, politician, inventor. In 1752 he had discovered the electrical nature of lightening and had invented the lightning rod. I'm sorry if that's not much. And with these extraordinary leaders, with men of great qualities, the poor and often illiterate or at any rate uneducated farmers rebelled against England. They fought the war of independence, the American Revolution. Well... notwithstanding the rifles and the gunpowder, notwithstanding the dead that every war costs, they didn't make it with the rivers of blood of the future French revolution. They didn't make the American revolution with the guillotine or the massacres of the Vandea. They did it with the sheet of paper that, together with the need of the soul, the need to have a patria, concertized the sublime idea of liberty, or rather liberty wedded with equality. The Declaration of Independence. "We hold these Truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal. That they are granted by our Creator certain inalienable Rights. That among these Rights are the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights Men must establish governments..." And this piece of paper that, from the French Revolution on, all of us have well or badly copied, or by which we have been inspired, still constitutes the backbone of America. The living sap of this nation. You know why? Because it changes subjects into citizens. It changes plebes into a People. Because it invites--nay, orders--them to govern themselves, to express their own individual natures, to seek their own happiness. All of which are the opposite of what communism did in prohibiting people from rebelling, governing themselves, expressing themselves, or enriching themselves, and making the State "His Majesty" in place of the usual kings. "Communism is a monarchical regime, a monarchy of the old stamp. Whereby it cuts off men's balls. And when a man has his balls cut off he is no longer a man," my father said. He also said that instead of redeeming the plebes communism transformed everybody into plebes. It left everyone dying of hunger.
Well, in my opinion America redeems plebes. They are all plebes, in America. White people, black people, yellow, brown, violet, stupid, intelligent, poor, rich. Actually the most plebeian are precisely the rich. In the majority of cases, sure peasants! Rude, uneducated. You soon realize they have never read Monsignor Della Casa, they have never had anything to do with refinement and good taste and sophistication. Notwithstanding the money they squander on clothes, for example, they are so inelegant that by comparison the queen of England seems chic. But, by God, they're redeemed. And there is nothing in this world stronger and more powerful than redeemed plebes. You always break your horns against the redeemed Plebiscite. And they all broke their horns against America. The English, the Germans, the Mexicans, the Russians, nazis, fascists, communists. Last but not least the Vietnamese broke them when after their victory they had to get down on all fours so that when an ex-president of the United States goes to make them a little visit they touch the sky with a finger. "Bienvenu, Monsieur le President, bienvenu." The trouble is the Vietnamese don't pray to Allah. And with the sons of Allah it will be hard, very long and very hard. Unless the rest of the Occident stops being afraid. And does a little thinking and gives them a hand.
I'm not talking, obviously, to the hyenas that enjoy seeing the images of the slaughter and sneering "Good! The Americans deserved it." I'm talking to people who without being bad or stupid still take refuge in reserve and doubt. To them I say: Wake up, people, wake up! Intimidated as you are by the fear of going against the tide, that is, of seeming racist (a wholly inappropriate word, because we're talking not about a race but a religion), you don't understand, or don't want to understand, that what's under way here is a reverse crusade. Accustomed as you are to playing a double game, blinded as you are by myopia, you don't understand or don't want to understand that what's under way here is a religious war. Wanted and declared by only a fringe group of that religion perhaps, but nonetheless a religious war. A war that they call Jihad. Holy War. A war that doesn't envision the conquest of our territories, perhaps, but certainly envisions the conquest of our souls. The disappearance of our liberty and our civilization. The annihilation of our way of living and dying, our way of praying and of learning. You don't understand or don't want to understand that if we don't oppose this, don't defend ourselves against this, don't fight, Jihad will win. And it will destroy the world that, good or bad, we've succeeded in building, changing, improving, and making a little more intelligent, i.e., less bigoted or even without bigotry. And with that it will destroy our culture, our art, our science, our morality, our values, and our pleasures... Christ! Usama Bin Laden feels authorized to kill you and your children because you drink wine or beer, because you don't wear a long beard or a chador, because you go to the theater and to movies, because you listen to music and sing songs, because you dance in discos or at home, because you watch TV, because you wear miniskirts or shorts, because at the beach you go naked or almost naked, because you make love when you like and where you like and with whom you like. Doesn't this even interest you, you fools? I'm an atheist, thank God. And I have no intention of allowing myself to be killed because I am.
For twenty years I've said it-twenty years. With a certain mildness, not with this passion, twenty years ago I wrote an in-depth article on all this business for Il Corriere. It was the article of someone used to being with all races and beliefs, a citizen used to fighting all fascisms and all intolerances, a lay person without taboos. But it was also the article of a person indignant with those who didn't smell the stink of a coming Holy War and were a bit too forgiving of the sons of Allah.. I presented an argument that went more or less like this, twenty years ago. "What sense does it make to respect those who don't respect us? What sense is there in defending their culture or presumed culture when they despise ours? I want to defend ours, and I wish to inform you that I like Dante Alighieri more than Omar Khayyam." Open, ye Heavens! They crucified me. "Racist! racist!" Well. They were the same progressives (at that time they called themselves communists) who crucified me. I suffered the same indignities when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Remember those bearded men with robes and turbans who before firing off mortars-actually every time they fired one off-sang the praises of their Lord? "Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!" I remember them well. And seeing the linkage of the word God with mortar fire made me tremble. I felt like I was in the Middle Ages and I said "the Soviets are what they are. But you have to admit that in fighting that war they're also defending us. And I thank them." Again, open ye Heavens! "Racist! racist!" Because of their blindness they didn't even want to hear me tell about the monstrous acts the sons of Allah committed against military prisoners. (They sawed off their arms and legs, do you remember? A little vice they'd already given in to in Lebanon with the Christian and Jewish prisoners.) No, they didn't want me to speak of that. And to play the progressive they applauded the Americans who, made foolish by their fear of the Soviet Union, loaded up the "heroic Afghan people" with arms. They trained the bearded ones, and along with the bearded ones the very most bearded one, Usama bin Laden. Russians Out of Afghanistaaaan! The Russians Must Get Out of Afghanistaaaaan! Okay, the Russians got out of Afghanistan-are you happy? It gets worse: now here they're discussing the next attack that will hit us with chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear weapons. They say the next massacre is inevitable because Iraq is supplying the materials. They're talking about vaccinations, gas masks, plague. They're asking when it will come. Are you happy?
Some are neither happy nor unhappy. They just don't give a damn. America's so far off. Between Europe and America there's an ocean... No, no, my dears. NO. There's a thin thread-line of water. Because when the destiny of the West is at issue, the survival of our civilization, we are New York. We are America. We Italians, we French, we English, we Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles, Scandinavians, Belgians, Spaniards, Greeks, Portuguese. If America falls, Europe falls, The West falls. And not only in a financial sense which, it seems to me, is what preoccupies you the most. (Once when I was young and naive I told Arthur Miller "Americans measure everything in terms of money, they think only of money!" Miller answered, "You don't?") We're falling in every direction, my dear. And we find muezzins instead of church bells, chadors instead of miniskirts, camel's milk instead of shots of cognac. This too you don't understand? This too you don't want to understand? Blair understood it. He came here and brought to Bush, or rather renewed with him, the solidarity of the English. It's not a solidarity expressed through gossiping and complaining. it's a solidarity based on hunting down terrorists and on military alliance. Chirac didn't do this. Last week as you know he was here on a formal visit.
It was a visit scheduled some time before, not an ad hoc visit. He saw the ruins of the Tower, he learned that the number of dead is incalculable, nay inadmissible, but he didn't give weight to this. During his interview on CNN my friend Christiana Amanpour asked him four times in what manner and to what extent he intended to align himself against this Jihad, and four times Chriac avoided giving an answer. He slithered away like an eel. You wanted to shout at him: "Monsieur le President! Do you remember the debarkation at Normandy? Do you know how many Americans died there to drive the Nazis out of France?" Apart from Blair, furthermore, I don't see any other Richard the Lion Hearteds among the Europeans. Least of all in Italy where the government hasn't located or arrested a single accomplice or suspected accomplice of Usama bin Laden. Dear Lord, my good sir! Dear Lord! In spite of war fears some accomplices of Usama bin Laden were identified and arrested. In France, in Germany, in England, in Spain... But in Italy where the mosques of Milan, Turin and Rome swarm with rogues who sing hymns to Usama bin Laden, with terrorists waiting to blow up the dome of St. Peter's, no one. Zero. Nothing. No one. Help me understand, my good sir, are your honorable police officers and carabinieri so inept? Are your secret services such buffoons? Are your bureaucrats such fools? Are they such plaster saints, are they such strangers to what has happened and is happening, the sons of Allah who are our guests? Or is it that in carrying out the proper investigations, in identifying and arresting whoever up to now you haven't identified and arrested, you fear the usual racist-racist blackmail? I don't, you see.
Christ! I don't deny anyone the right to be afraid. Only an idiot doesn't fear war. Anyone who wants to make you think he's not afraid of war--I've written this a thousand times--is both an idiot and a liar. But in life and in history there are times when it is not allowed to be afraid. Times when it's immoral and not a civil act to be afraid. Those who avoid this tragedy because of weakness or a lack of courage or the habit of fence sitting, it seems to me, are masochists.
Masochists--yes, masochists. Do we want to face this discussion on what you call the Conflict Between Two Cultures? Well, if you want to know, it irritates me even to talk about two cultures-to put them on the same plane as if they were parallel realities, of equal weight and equal extent. Because in our civilization there's Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle-there's Phydias, for God's sake. There's ancient Greece with its Parthenon and its discovery of Democracy. There's ancient Rome with its grandeur, its laws, its concept of the Law. Its sculptures, its literature, its architecture. Its palaces and its amphitheaters, its aqueducts, its bridges, its roads. There's a revolutionary, Christ, dead on the cross, who taught us (and forgive us if we have not learned it) the concept of love and justice. There's also a Church that gave me the Inquisition, I grant you, that tortured and burnt me a thousand times on the pyre, I admit. That for centuries oppressed me and restricted me to sculpting and painting only Christ and Madonnas, that nearly killed Galileo. It humiliated me and silenced me. But it also made a great contribution to the history of thought-is that true or isn't it? Behind our civilization there's the Renaissance. There's Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, there's the music of Bach and Mozart and Beethoven. And on and on all the way up to Rossini and Donizetti and Verdi and Co. That music without which we wouldn't know how to be alive, which in their culture is forbidden. Woe to you if you whistle a song or hum a chorus of Nabucco. And then there's science, for God's sake. Science, which has understood many illnesses and found the cures for them. I am still alive, for now, thanks to our science-not that of Muhammad. Science which has invented marvelous machines. Trains, automobiles, airplanes, spaceships in which we've gone to the moon and mars and soon will go who knows where. Science, which has changed the face of this planet with electricity, radio, telephones, television, and, by the way: is it true that the holy men of the Left don't want to say what I've just said?!? God, what worms! They'll never change. And now here's the fatal question: behind that other culture, what is there?
Ha! Looking and looking I find nothing there but Muhammad with his Koran and Averroes with his scholarly accomplishments. (The Commentaries on Aristotle, etc.) Arafat also finds there numbers and mathematics. Again screeching at me, again covering me in spit, in 1972 he told me his culture was superior to mine, much superior to mine because his grandfathers had invented numbers and mathematics. But Arafat has a poor memory. For this reason he changes the subject and contradicts himself every five minutes. His grandfathers didn't invent numbers and mathematics. They invented the numerical symbols which even we infidels adopted, and mathematics was conceived almost simultaneously by all the ancient civilizations. In Mesopotamia, China, India, Greece, Egypt among the Maya... Your grandfathers, distinguished Mr. Arafat, left us nothing but some mosques and a big book with which for fourteen hundred years they have been disturbing me more than the Christians have with the Bible and the Jews have with the Torah. And now we see the qualities that set the Koran apart. Are they really qualities? Since the sons of Allah have semi destroyed New York, the Islamic experts have done nothing but sing the praises of Muhammad: they explain to me that the Koran preaches peace and brotherhood and justice. (Moreover Bush says this, poor Bush. And it goes without saying that he has to placate the twenty-four million American-Moslems, convince them to blab whatever they know about Usama bin Laden's relatives or friends or devotees.) But then how do we fit this with the history of An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth? How do we fit this with the business of the chador or the veil that covers the face of the Moslem women, so that to get a glance at whoever's next to them these unfortunates have to look through a tightly woven net up to their eyes? How do we fit that with polygamy and the principle that women have less worth than camels, must not go to school, must not go to a doctor, must not be photographed, etc.? How do we fit that with the veto of alcoholic drinks and the death sentence for anyone who drinks them? This is in the Koran too. And it doesn't seem to me at all just, at all fraternal, at all peaceful.
So here's my answer to your question about the conflict between the two cultures. I say that in the world there's a place for everyone. Everyone can do what they like at home. And if in certain countries women are so stupid as to accept the chador or the veil from which you look through a tightly woven net up to the eyes, too bad for them. If they're stupid enough to accept not going to school, not going to a doctor, not having their pictures taken, etc., too bad for them. If they're so moronic as to marry an oaf who'd take four wives, too bad for them. If their men are so silly as not to drink beer and wine, ditto. I won't be the one to stop them. That would be the last thing I'd do. I was schooled in the concept of freedom and my mamma said "The world is beautiful because it's full of variety." But if they're seeking to impose the same things on me, in my home... And that is what they're seeking to do.. Usama bin Laden says the entire earth must become Moslem, we must convert to Islam, good or bad he'll convert us all: it's for that end that he has massacred us and continues to massacre us. And this cannot be pleasing to us-no no. It must fill us with a great desire to turn the tables, to kill him. However, things are not resolved, it's not all finished, with that--with the death of Usama bin Laden. Because by now there are tens of thousands of Usama bin Ladens, and they're not only in Afghanistan and the other Arab countries. They're everywhere, and the most highly trained among them are precisely in the West. In our cities, our streets, our universities, in the nerve centers of our technology. That technology that any dullard can manipulate. The Crusade has been under way for some time. And it works like a Swiss watch, sustained by a faith and a perfidy comparable only to the faith and perfidy of Torquemada when he carried out the Inquisition. Clearly to negotiate with them is impossible. To reason with them, unthinkable. To treat them with indulgence or tolerance or hope, suicide. Whoever believes the contrary is deluded.
The person who's telling you this is one who's come to know that type of fanaticism very well in Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and at home--that is, in Italy. She's come to know it, and also--through trivial, indeed grotesque, personal incidents--has had it chillingly confirmed. I never forget what happened at the Iranian Embassy in Rome when I requested a visa to go to Teheran to interview Khomeini and I presented myself with red painted fingernails. For them, a sign of immorality. They treated me like a whore who should be burned at the stake. They ordered me to remove the red at once, or else... Nor shall I forget what happened to me in Qom, Khomeini's holy town, where as a woman I was rejected by all the hotels. To interview Khomeini I had to wear the chador, to put on the chador I had to take off my jeans, to take off my jeans I had to withdraw from sight, and naturally I could have performed the whole operation in the car I'd come to Teheran in. But the interpreter prevented me from doing that: "You're-crazy-you're crazy-if-you-do-such-a-thing-in-Qom-you'll- be-shot." He preferred to take me to the ex royal palace where a kind hearted custodian took us in, loaned us the ex throne room. Actually I felt like the Madonna who, to give birth to the baby Jesus, took refuge in a stall with a donkey and an ox to warm them. But among those people a man and a woman who aren't married are forbidden to be off by themselves behind a closed door and-alas!-all of a sudden the door opened. The mullah assigned to maintaining morality burst in screeching "shame-shame, sin-sin," and there was only one way not to wind up getting shot: for the two of us to marry. To sign a short-term marriage contract (expiration: four months) that the mullah waved in front of our faces. The trouble was the interpreter had a Spanish wife, a certain Consuelo not in the least disposed to accept polygamy, and I didn't want to marry anyone. Especially not an Iranian with a Spanish wife not in the least disposed to accept polygamy. At the same time I didn't want to end up shot, nor did I want to lose the interview with Khomeini. I was struggling with this dilemma and...
You're laughing, I'm sure. These seem jokes to you. Well, then I won't tell you the conclusion of this episode. To make you cry I'll tell the one about the twelve impure youths whom I saw executed in Dacca when the Bangladesh war was over. They executed them in the playing field of the Dacca stadium with thrusts of bayonets in their chests and their stomachs in the presence of twenty thousand of the faithful who applauded in the name of God. "Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!" they roared. I know, I know: in the Coliseum the ancient Romans, those ancient Romans my culture continues to take pride in, were entertained watching Christians die by being fed to the lions. I know, I know: in every country of Europe Christians, those Christians whose contribution to the history of thought I recognize despite my atheism, were entertained watching heretics burned. However some time has passed, we've become a bit more civilized, and even the sons of Allah should have understood that some things aren't done. After the twelve impure youths they killed a child who to save his brother condemned to die had beaten his executioners. They crushed his head with their army boots. If you don't believe this, well: reread my account or the account of the French and German journalists who, as horrified as I, were there with me. Better: look at the photos that one of them shot. However the point that I wish to underline is not that. It is that at the end of this scene of slaughter, the twenty thousand faithful (many of them women) left the stands and went down onto the field. Not in a disorderly, raggle-taggle way-no. In an orderly, solemn manner. Slowly they prepared a funeral procession and always in the name of God they walked over the cadavers. Always roaring "Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!" They destroyed them like New York's Twin Towers. They reduced them to a blood-oozing carpet of crushed bones.
Oh, I could go on forever. Tell you things never told, things to make your hair stand on end. About that dotard Khomeini, for example. After our interview he held a meeting and he said I accused him of cutting off women's breasts. Out of that meeting he made a video and it was broadcast on television for months in Teheran so that, when the following year I returned to Teheran, I was arrested the minute I got off the plane. And it was ugly for me, you know, really ugly. It was the period of the American hostages...I could tell you about Mujib Rahman who, again in Dacca, ordered his warriors to eliminate me as a dangerous European, and lucky for me there was an English colonel who risked his own life to save me. Or I could tell you about that Palestinian named Habash who for twenty minutes held a machine gun to my head. Oh, God what people they are! The only ones I was treated civilly by were poor Ali Bhutto, the prime minister of Pakistan, who died by hanging for being too much a friend of the West, and the very brave king of Jordan, King Hussein. But those two were no more Moslem than I'm Catholic. However, I want to give you the conclusion of my argument. A conclusion that won't please many, given that defending one's own culture, in Italy, is becoming a mortal sin. And given that they're so intimidated by the word "racist" that everyone is as quiet as a mouse.
I don't go to raise tents in Mecca. I don't go to sing Our Fathers and Hail Marys at the tomb of Muhammad. I don't go to pee on the marble of their mosques, I don't go to make caca at the feet of their minarets. When I find myself in their countries (something I never derive pleasure from), I never forget I'm a stranger and a guest. I'm careful not to offend them with clothes or gestures or behavior which for us are normal and for them inadmissible. I treat them with dutiful respect, dutiful courtesy. I apologize if through carelessness or ignorance I infringe one of their rules or superstitions. And this cry of pain and indignation I have written you not always with the apocalyptic scenes with which I began my piece before my eyes. At times instead of those I saw an image that for me is symbolic (and therefore infuriating), of the great tent with which for three months a summer ago the Somali Moslems disfigured, defiled, and outraged the Piazza del Duomo in Florence. My city. It was a tent raised to blame, condemn and insult the Italian government that played host to them but didn't grant them the necessary papers to run around Europe and didn't let them bring hordes of their relatives into the country Mammas, daddies, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, pregnant sisters-in-law and even relatives of relatives. It was a tent situated near the beautiful Archbishop's Palace and on the sidewalk outside it they put the shoes or the slippers that in their countries they line up outside the mosques. And together with shoes or slippers, empty water bottles they used to wash their feet before prayer. A tent set up in front of the cathedral with the dome by Brunelleschi, beside the baptistery with the golden doors of Ghiberti. A tent, in fine, furnished like a sloppy flat: chairs, tables, sofas, mattresses to sleep or to fuck on, cook stoves to prepare food and befoul the square with smoke and stinking smells. And thanks to the usual insensitivity of the ENEL, which cares about as much about our works of art as it cares about our landscape, it was furnished with electric light. Thanks to a radio-tape player, it was enriched by the tortured voice of a muezzin who regularly exhorted the faithful, deafened the infidels, and drowned out the sound of the church bells. And together with all that, the yellow lines of urine that profaned the marbles of the baptistery. (Good God! They have a long stream, these sons of Allah. How do they manage to hit a target separated from the protective railing and therefore almost two meters away from their urinary organ?) With the yellow lines of urine was the stink of their shit which blocked the gate of San Salvatore al Vescovo: the exquisite Romanesque church (A.D. 1000) which sits on the shoulders of the Piazza del Duomo and which the sons of Allah had turned into a shithouse. You know it well. You know it well because it was I who called you, begging you to speak of it in Il Corriere, remember? I also called the mayor who, I must concede, kindly came to my house. He listened to me, he said I was right. "You're right, you're really right..." But the tent wasn't removed. He forgot about it or couldn't manage. I also called the Foreign Minister, who was a Florentine, indeed one of those Florentines who speak with a very Florentine accent, not that he was involved in the matter. And he too, I concede, listened to me. He said I was right: "Ah, yes, You're right. Yes." But he didn't raise a finger to remove the tent and as for the sons of Allah who urinated on the Baptistery and shat upon San Salvatore al Vescovo, he soon made them happy. (As far as I know the daddies and mammas and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and pregnant sisters-in-law now are wherever they want to be.) That is, in Florence or other cities in Europe. Then I changed my strategy. I called a friendly cop who runs the security office and said, "Dear officer, I'm not a politician. When I say I'm going to do something, I do it. Moreover I have war experience and I'm wise to certain things. If you don't remove that frigging tent tomorrow, I'll burn it. I swear on my honor that I'll burn it, not even a regiment of carabinieri will be able to stop me, and I want to be arrested for this. Handcuffed and carried off to jail. I'll wind up in all the papers as a result." Well, being smarter than the others, in the course of a few hours he took it away. Where the tent had been there was nothing left but a huge disgusting pile of garbage. It was a Pyrrhic Victory. In fact it didn't in the least influence the creeps who for years have been wounding and humiliating what was the capital of art and culture and beauty. It didn't in the least discourage the other very arrogant guests of the city: Albanians, Sudanese, Bengalese, Tunisians, Algerians, Pakistani, Nigerians who with such fervor contribute to the drug trade and prostitution, apparently not prohibited by the Koran. Oh, yes: they're all still where they were before my cop took away the tent. In the courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery, at the foot of Giotto's tower. In front of the Loggia dell'Orcagna, around the Loggie del Porcellino. In front of the national library, at the entrance of the museums. On the Ponte Vecchio, where every so often they stab or shoot each other. Along the Arno, where they've sought and been granted financial support from the municipal government (yes, ladies and gentlemen, financial support). On San Lorenzo's church square where they get drunk on beer, wine, and liquor, race of hypocrites that they are, and where they utter obscenities to women. (Last summer, on that church square, they did that to me, who am by now an old woman. It goes without saying they brought more harm upon themselves. Oh, they brought more harm on themselves! One is still there moaning over his genitals.) In the historic streets where they bivouac with the pretense of selling "goods." By "goods" you must understand pocketbooks and suitcases copied from models protected by patents, and therefore illegal, and carvings, pens, African statuettes which ignorant tourists think are sculptures by Bernini, and "stuff to smell." ("Je connais mes droits," "I know my rights," he hissed at me, on the Ponte Vecchio, one I'd seen with his "stuff to smell.") And too bad if a citizen protests, too bad if he responds with "go exercise those rights at home." "Racist! Racist!" Too bad if by walking between the goods blocking a passage way a pedestrian damages a so- called Bernini sculpture. "Racist! Racist!" Too bad if a city policeman approaches and attempts an "Honorable son of Allah, sir, would you very much mind moving aside just a hair so people can get by?" They eat him alive. They menace him with a knife. At the very least they insult his mamma and his progenitors. "Racist! Racist!" And people endure with resignation. It has no effect even if you yell at them what my dad shouted during Fascism: "Doesn't dignity mean anything to you? Don't you have a little pride, pigs?"
It happens also in other cities, I know. In Turin for instance. Turin which made Italy and now doesn't even seem to be an Italian city. It seems more like Algiers, Dacca, Nairobi, Damascus, Beirut. In Venice. Venice where the doves of Piazza San Marco have been replaced with little rugs with "goods" and even Othello would feel ill at ease. In Genoa. That Genoa whose beautiful Palaces Rubens admired so much have been sequestered by them and are wasting away like beautiful raped women. In Rome. Rome where the cynicism of the politics of every lie and every color courts them in the hope of obtaining their future vote, and where to protect them there's the Pope himself. (Your Holiness, why in the name of the One God don't you take them into the Vatican? Provided that they don't befoul even the Sistine Chapel and the statues of Michelangelo and the paintings of Raphael: be firm.) Bah! Now I'm the one who doesn't understand. Because sons of Allah in Italy they call "foreign workers." Or "needed work force." And of the fact that some of them do perform some work I have no doubt. Italians have become such little lords. They vacation in the Seychelles, come to New York to buy sheets at Bloomingdale's. They're ashamed to be laborers and peasants, and you can no longer associate them with the proletariat. But those I'm talking about, what workers are they? What work do they do? In what way do they provide the workforce needs which the Italian ex proletariat no longer provides? By camping out in the cities pretending to be "selling goods"? Wandering about and disfiguring our monuments? Praying five times a day? And there's another thing I don't understand. If they're so poor, who gives them the money for the voyage by ship or rubber raft that brings them to Italy? Who gives them the ten million per head (a minimum of ten million) necessary to buy themselves the ticket? Doesn't Usama bin Laden who gives it to them to carry out a conquest which is not only a conquest of souls, but also a conquest territory?
Well, even if he doesn't give it to them, I'm not sure about this situation. Even if our guests are absolutely innocent, even if among them there's no one who wants to destroy my Tower of Pisa or my Towers of Giotto, no one who wants to put me into a chador, no one who wants to burn me at the stake in a new Inquisition, their presence alarms me. It fills me with discomfort. And anyone is wrong who takes this situation lightly or optimistically. Anyone is wrong who compares the wave of migration that has hit Italy with the wave of migration that poured into America during the second half of the nineteenth century, not to mention the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Now I'll tell you why.
Not long ago I happened to catch some words spoken by one of the thousands of Council presidents Italy has been blessed with over the last few decades. "Hey, even my aunt was an emigrant! I remember when my uncle left for America with cardboard luggage!" Or something of the kind. Hey, no, my dear. No. It's not at all the same thing. And it isn't for two quite simple reasons.
The first is that during the second half of the nineteenth century the wave of migration into America didn't happen in a clandestine fashion or due to the power of those carrying it out. It was the Americans themselves who wanted it, solicited it. And through a specific Act of Congress. "Come, come because we need you. If you come we will award you with a nice piece of land." The Americans have made a movie about it too, the one with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and I was struck by the ending, the scene of the unfortunates who raced to plant a white flag on land that would become theirs, with the result that only the youngest and strongest could manage. The others were left with nothing and some died in the chase. This I know, that in Italy there has never been an act of Parliament inviting and indeed urging our guests to leave their countries. "Come, come, we need you so much, if you come we'll give you a farm in the Chianti region." They came on their own initiative, in those cursed rubber rafts and in the face of police who tried to send them back. More than emigration it was an invasion conducted under a cloak of secrecy. A secrecy that is disturbing because it is not mild and suffering. It's arrogant and is protected by the cynicism of the politicians who close one or both eyes upon it. I'll never forget the meetings with which last year the illegals filled the city squares of Italy seeking residence permits. Those twisted, evil faces. Those raised, menacing fists. Those angry voices that took me back to Khomeini's Teheran. I'll never forget because I felt offended by their presumption in my home and because I felt myself mocked by the ministers who told us, "We want to repatriate them but we don't know where they're hiding." Bastards! In those squares there were thousands, and they weren't hiding at all. To repatriate them it would have sufficed to line them up, "Please, sir, this way," and accompany them to a door or an airport.
The second reason, dear nephew of the uncle with the cardboard suitcase, any schoolboy would understand. To make this reason clear it's sufficient to clarify two elements. First, America is a continent. During the second half of the nineteenth century--that is, when the American Congress opened the way to immigration--this continent was almost unpopulated. The bulk of the population was concentrated in the states of the East or in the states of the Atlantic region, and in the Midwest there were fewer people. California was almost empty. Well, Italy is not a continent. It's a very small and anything but unpopulated country. Second, America is a very young country. If you remember that the War of Independence took place at the end of the 1700's, you can deduce from this that it's barely two hundred years old and you will understand why its cultural identity is not yet well defined. Italy, on the contrary, is a very old country. Its history goes back at least three thousand years. Its cultural identity is, therefore, very precise, and pay attention to this: it has a lot to do with a religion that calls itself the Christian religion and a church that calls itself the Catholic Church. People like me have a nice saying: "With the catholic church I'm not involved." Alas, I'm involved, oh yes. Whether I like it or not, I'm involved. And how could I not be? I was born in a country of churches, convents, Christs, Madonnas, saints. The first music I heard coming into the world was the music of the church bells. The bells of Santa Maria del Fiore which during the tent period were drowned out by the twisted screeching of the muezzin. And with that music, in this landscape, I grew up. Through that music and this landscape I learned what architecture, sculpture, painting, and art are. Through that church (later rejected) I began to ask myself what good and evil, and...my God...
There: do you see? Again I wrote "my God." For all my secularism, for all my atheism, I'm so imbued with Catholic culture that it's a direct part of my way of expressing myself. Oh God, my God, by God, my Jesus, thank God, my Lord, "Madonna mia," Christ this, Christ that. They come to me so spontaneously, these words, that I'm not even aware of uttering them or writing them. Want me to tell all? Even though I've never forgiven Catholicism for the infamies it's imposed on me for centuries beginning with the Inquisition, which burned my grandmother, poor grandma, to the priests I can't quite agree with and their prayers I wouldn't know quite what to do with, the music of the church bells is something I love so much. It caresses my heart. I even like those Christs and Madonnas and painted or sculpted saints. Indeed I have a thing about icons. I even like those monasteries and convents. They give me a sense of peace; at times I envy those who dwell there. And then, let's admit it: our cathedrals are more beautiful than mosques and synagogues. Yes or no? they're also more beautiful than protestant churches. Look, the cemetery of my family is a protestant cemetery. It accepts the dead of all religions but it's protestant. And one of my great-grandmothers was Valdese. A great aunt was evangelical. The great-grandmother I never knew; the great aunt, I did. When I was a child she always took me to meetings of her church in Via de' Benci, in Florence and... God how bored I was! I felt so alone with those men of faith who only sang hymns, that priest who wasn't a priest and only read the Bible, that church that didn't seem like a church to me and that apart from a little pulpit had nothing but a big cross. No angels, no Madonnas, no incense... I even missed the stink of incense, and I'd rather have been in the Basilica di Santa Croce where you had those things. The things I was used to. And I add: in my house in the country, in Tuscany, there's a tiny chapel. It's always closed. Since mamma's death nobody goes there. Still, sometimes I go there, to dust, to check that the mice haven't made a nest there, and despite my secular education I feel at ease there. Despite my anticlericalism, I move there comfortably. I think the overwhelming majority of Italians would confess to you the same thing. (Berlinguer confessed this to me.)
Sweet Lord! (We're having a laugh.) I'm telling you that we Italians aren't in the same situation as Americans: a mosaic of ethnic groups and religions, a grab bag of a thousand cultures, at the same time open to any invasion and capable of repelling it. I'm telling you that, precisely because it has had a very precise definition for many centuries, our cultural identity cannot support a wave of migration composed of persons who in one way or another want to change our way of life. Our values. I'm telling you that where we are there's no room for muezzins, minarets, for fake teetotalers, for their frigging Middle Ages, for their frigging chadors. And if there were, I wouldn't give it to them. Because that would be equivalent to throwing out Dante, Michelangelo, Raphael, the renaissance, the Risorgimento, the freedoms that we have well or badly achieved, our Patria. It would mean to give them Italy on a platter. And I don't want to give them Italy on a platter.
I'm Italian. Those who think I've become American by now are foolish and wrong. American citizenship is something I've never sought. Years ago an American ambassador offered it to me on Celebrity Status, and after thanking him I replied, "Sir, I've always had ties with America. America for me is a lover-no, a husband-to whom I'll always remain faithful. So long as it doesn't dishonor me. I'm very fond of this husband. I'll never forget that if it hadn't inconvenienced itself in making war on Hitler and Mussolini, I'd be speaking German today. I'm very fond of it and it appeals deeply to me. For example I like the fact than when I arrive in New York and hand over my passport with the residence permit, the customs agent says to me with a big smile: 'Welcome home.' It seems to me such a generous, affectionate gesture. Furthermore I remember that America has always been the Refugium Peccatorum of people without patria. But I have a patria already, sir. My patria is Italy, and Italy is my mamma. Sir, I love Italy. It would seem like denying my mamma to take American citizenship." I also told him that my language is Italian, I write in Italian, it's translated into English--and that's the end of it. In the same spirit in which I'm translated into French, feeling it to be a foreign language. I told him that when I hear the national anthem I am moved. Hearing "Brothers of Italy, Italy awakens," dum-te-dum, dum-te-dum, dum-te-dum, I get a lump in my throat. It doesn't even occur to me that as a hymn it's a bit on the ugly side. Moreover I even get a lump in my throat seeing the white, red, and green flag blowing in the wind. Apart from the hooligans in the stadium, you must understand. I have a white, red and green flag from the nineteenth century. Full of spots, spots of blood, all pink from mice. And even if it has the shield of Savoy in the middle (but without Cavour and Vittorio Emanuele II and Garibaldi who bowed down to that shield, we'd never have unified Italy), I treat it like gold. I take care of it like a jewel. We have died for that tricolor, Christ! We were hung, shot, decapitated, killed by the Austrians, the pope, the Duke of Modena, the Bourbons. We carried out the Risorgimento with that tricolor. The unification of Italy, the war in Carso, the resistance. For that tricolor my maternal great-grandfather Giobatta fought at Curtatone and Montanara, was horribly disfigured by an Austrian rocket. For that tricolor my maternal uncles endured every hardship in the trenches of Carso. My father was arrested and tortured at Villa Triste by Nazi-Fascists for that tricolor. For that tricolor my entire family fought in the resistance and I fought in it too. In the ranks of justice and liberty, and with the battle name, Emilia. I was fourteen. When the year after that I was released with a certificate of service from the Italian Army-Body of Volunteers for Freedom, I felt so proud. Jesus Mary, I was an Italian soldier! When I was informed that the certificate of service carried with it a pension of 14,540 lire, I didn't know whether to accept it or not. It seemed unjust to accept it for having done my duty for the Patria. Finally I did accept it. At home we were all without shoes. With that money I bought shoes for me and my sisters.
Naturally my patria, my Italy, is not today's Italy. The pleasure- loving, self-centered, vulgar Italy of Italians who like to retire before the age of fifty and whose only passions are foreign holidays and soccer matches. The bad, silly, cowardly Italy of little hyenas who would sell their daughter to a bordello in Beirut just to get to shake hands with a Hollywood movie star. But if Usama Bin Laden's kamikazes reduce thousands of New Yorkers to a mountain of ashes that look like coffee grounds, they guffaw with contentment-"good--the Americans deserve it!" This squalid, unwarlike, soulless Italy of presumptuous and incapable political parties that don't know how to win or lose but know how to glue the fat behinds of their representatives to the seats of a deputy's or minister's or mayor's armchair. An Italy still Mussolini-esque, of black and red fascists, who invite you to remember Ennio Flaiano's terrible line: "In Italy fascists are divided into two categories, fascists and anti-fascists." Nor is my Italy the Italy of the magistrates and politicians who, knowing nothing of classical rhetoric, pontificate from television screens with monstrous errors of syntax. (You don't say "If it was," animals! You say "If it were.") Nor is it the Italy of youths who having teachers of similar ability drown in the most scandalous ignorance, in the most flagrant superficiality, in a void. Whereby to errors of syntax they add errors of spelling and ask who the Carbonari were, who the liberals were, who Silvio Pellico was, who Mazzini was, who Massimo D'Azeglio was, who Cavour was, who Vittorio Emanuele II was; they look at you with blank eyes and hanging tongue. They know nothing; at the most they take on the easy role of aspiring terrorists in a time of peace and democracy, they wave black flags, hide their faces behind watch caps, silly little dopes. The unfit. Least of all my Italy is not the Italy of the cicadas who, after reading these notes will hate me for having written the truth. Between spaghetti parties they'll speak ill of me, wish me killed by their favorite, Usama bin Laden. No, no: my Italy is an idealized Italy. The Italy I dreamed of as a little girl, when I was pensioned from the Italian Army-Body of Volunteers for Liberty, and I was full of illusions. A serious, intelligent, dignified and courageous Italy, and therefore an Italy worthy of respect. And woe to you who touch it, this Italy--an Italy which exists, however it may be shushed or laughed at or insulted. Woe to those who steal it from me; woe to those who invade it. Because whoever invades it, whether Napoleon's French, or the Austrians of Franz Joseph, Hitler's Germans, or Usama bin Laden's accomplices, for me it's all the same. Whether to invade it they use canons or rubber rafts, it's the same.
With this I salute you affectionately, my dear Ferrucio, and I warn you: ask nothing more of me. Never more to participate in brawls or vain polemics. What I had to say I have said. Rage and pride have commanded me. A clear conscience and my age have allowed me to say it. But now I must go back to work. I don't want to be disturbed. Here I stop: it's done.
"La Fallaci's" Story (as told by Oriana)
Compiled by Stefano Jesurum
Translated by Chris Knipp
Alonely little girl who, unlike others her age, didn't dream of a "house with geraniums" love. Then, a woman in love. Sex, flurries of excitement, pride in her first published piece...Here is a biography selected from documents and interviews.
Is Oriana Fallaci a reserved woman? It's possible. Outright reclusive ? That could be. Certainly she is a lady who does not like to talk about herself. But now we're going to try to let Oriana tell the story of Oriana - through excerpts from interviews she has left behind over the years.
It was a mournful, unhappy childhood that she described to her sister, Paola (Annabella, 1979). "I was a pretty child, with a round, pensive face. I was very withdrawn, I think, a boring little girl. And very obedient, very disciplined. An old fashioned child, if you like, the kind described in nineteenth century novels. My memories are almost always of depression, of boredom and disenchantment - in short, of unhappiness. And of a repressed desire to revolt. But against whom, against what? All my rebellions were internal and were translated into dreams. And the dreams boiled down into one image: books. I knew it: oh, I knew that I would write books and that I would write for newspapers. I never thought of the two jobs separately, even though I saw books as a more powerful, more noble objective. They were always books with hard red covers because that was the look of the books published by Sonzogno which I saw in the library at home. I never tired of looking at them, intimidated and overcome with veneration because the majority of those who had written them were dead and continued to be alive though those printed pages. Journalism on the other hand I thought of as a wonderful adventure. Thanks to the newspapers I wanted to go to Malaysia. To India and Malaysia. I'm talking about a little child of six, seven, maybe eight." A little girl who hence did not dream of marriage like the others her age because if she thought of love she thought of Jack London, "but not to marry him: to wander the world with him, maybe on sleighs pulled by dogs, to experience a thousand adventures and then write about them. Love was identified with that kind of man and that kind of life: a man who might be a companion for that life, never a man to go through quiet days with in a pretty little house with geraniums in the windows."
And so it was, more or less. To Guido Gerosa (Playboy, 1976): "Very often one loves a person because they impose that love on us. At other times one loves a person out of a fear of solitude. I'm not talking of physical solitude because that can be resolved through sex. I'm talking about psychological solitude: the solitude of the soul. At still other times one loves or has love imposed upon one out of pity. Or just out of kindness. And at times, finally, because one needs a brother. A companion. I have to say that personally I've always sought a brother in the men I've loved. And now more than ever." Again to Paola (Annabella, 1979): "Though I've never hidden my relationship with a man, I have always had this modesty about my private life. I will tell you that when I came to Italy with Alekos (Alexis Panagulis, the hero of the opposition to the Greek colonels, Oriana's lover from when I interviewed her in 1973 until the day of his death in a mysterious car accident - in 1976), in the fall of 1973; we were already a couple living together as if we were married. Moreover from the first day, even at the Hotel Excelsior where we stayed, we slept together in a double room. Yet in public I was so formal with him, I showed the relationship between us so little, that for a week or two they thought we were together only for our work. Unquestionably this was a great love we had. But this doesn't take away from the fact that at certain moments living together so totally was a burden on me. But he understood that about me because he was the same."
Modesty about her private life is a quality that has always been a part of "la Fallaci," as a youth and as an adult, at the beginning of her career and during the long days of her greatest success. Again to her sister Paola (Annabella, 1979): "To speak of oneself means to lay bare one's own soul, expose it like a body to the sun: to lay bare one's own soul is not at all like taking off one's brassiere on a crowded beach! No, it's not good to tell about one's own feelings unless one does it the way I did in A Man (Un Uomo), where I also explained my love for Alekos and his for me in political terms. Anyone who wants to know more about what happened before has only to read with attention in my other books: it's all there between the lines, almost everything. Oh yes! In every one of my books a trace of my human biography is etched. Alas... Because I did it without realizing it, without wanting to. Because I became aware of it later, with a shudder, really."
It's hard to find eroticism - at least in the form that literature has accustomed us to - in the pages of her books. Because sex...To Guido Gerosa (Playboy, 1976): "I begin to believe that, far from being something dirty, it's something very banal. Above all if it occurs without feeling - feeling of a kind that's not invented. Because sex without feeling is boring, it becomes the most tiring kind of gymnastics and nothing more. Especially for a man. I remember a colleague, I think it w as Mino Monicelli, who said: "To make love is something for porters. Because it moves the blood from the brain and takes it down to the lower stomach. Think no more about it." I have to say that this is not the case with me because even at that moment I am thinking. For me the blood never abandons the brain. They say that that's a negative factor, but to me it seems positive. Am I a puritan? Oh God, it would be terrible if I discovered that I'm a puritan. But I must confess that pornography, photographs of naked people, arouses a kind of irritation in me. There's a kind of desecration involved, an offense, in photographing the naked body, that is, in crystallizing it within an image. This whether the body be that of a woman or that of a man. I feel them humiliated and myself humiliated. Please note that, physically, I am not a prudish woman. If you catch me nude, that doesn't bother me in the least. Reaching to cover up is not one of my gestures."
What is and has always been one of her gestures is the act of writing, the effort of writing. She has explained this to David Lajolo (Corriere della Sera, 1979): "The choice of a word, the composition of a sentence, even the rhythm of sounds on a page, the structure, or rather the architecture of the story extended to the length and complexity of a novel are as consuming as the suffering of recreating reality. In every case writing is a torment that borders on masochism. Writing well, I mean. Even when the writing is going smoothly it's cruelly wearing and afterwards I fe el as if I've dragged tons of lead up a mountain." "Masochistic" Oriana became very early: because as a child she did not play with dolls... (To Paola Fallaci, Annabella, 1979): "The other children intimidated me. With them I couldn't read, dream, or write. Because I wrote, you know? Even then. I have found notebooks full of absurd stories, impossible tales... I believe it's due to my mama. I assume that my mama, together with a genuine desire for culture, which was spontaneous because she came from a family of poor artists, pushed me to read out of a raging desire for revenge. Yes, I believe that my mama always interpreted culture as a personal and social revenge. "Woe to you if you're ignorant," she used to say, "when you're ignorant they can take advantage of you horribly."
And although she was enrolled in medical school (which she did not finish), there was the passion for newspapers at the age of sixteen... (Again to her sister, Annabella, 1979): "Work for me meant writing, being a journalist. I wanted to work for La Nazione. But I went to the wrong floor and landed up on the fifth where La Mattina dell'Italia Centrale was. 'I want to be a reporter.' 'How old are you?' I lied: 'Seventeen.' 'What's your name?' 'Oriana Fallaci.' 'A relative of Bruno Fallaci?' 'He's my uncle.' Well, you know how prestigious the name of my uncle Bruno was in journalism: in my opinion he was one of the greatest Italian journalists who ever was." The first article, about a Florence dance club, was written in longhand on lined paper like they use for classroom assignments. "'Don't you even know how to type?' I took nine hours to copy over my piece: from 10 a.m. till 7 p.m. But finally it was to my satisfaction and pleased me so much I signed it: OF. They paid me for it right away. Three hundred lire. I was madly proud. Consumed with emotion. You understand, I too had entered the unattainable world of the privileged who when they die remain alive because they leave behind a book with a red cover."
Need we recall the newspapers in which "la Fallaci" appeared, or list the titles of her books translated into almost every language in the world? No, it's superfluous; everyone knows that. But what kind of journalist is Oriana? (To Paola, Annabella, 1979): "I was raised in the school of 'putting one over on them.' It meant 'getting a scoop,' though the word 'scoop' wasn't in style till many years later. It was very competitive. Competitive and, again, lonely. "You could write a book about a seventeen-year-old, eighteen- year-old, nineteen-year-old in search of a love that wasn't of the geraniums-in-the-window kind. It was as if the wonderful men whom I'd admired in the eleven months of my training, the Resistance (with her dad in Justice and Liberty with the nom de guerre of Emilia), had been an empty mirage or as if, with the coming of peace, the country had regressed and become a desert of dead souls." Competition, loneliness, and baths of reality, the kind that lead to growth. The debut of her byline on the page, and the phone call from her uncle Bruno: "I held the receiver anxiously: did he finally want to congratulate me? And uncle Bruno: 'Who do you think you are, Hemingway?'"
The supreme Hemingway...To Vittorio Feltri (Europeo, 1991) "Above all there was Hemingway who, at about my age and after having covered the Spanish Civil war as a journalist, returned to be a war correspondent in World War II. And God knows he was already celebrated at that time. Alas, nothing reveals man the way war does. Nothing so accentuates in him the beauty and ugliness, the intelligence and foolishness, the brutishness and humanity, the courage and cowardice, the enigma. To understand human beings, ultimately war serves a writer better than any other experience - or should one use the word adventure? To live, to write, some (and in London there was one of these, Hemingway was one of these) need adventure. And I do too."
All the Vietnams on earth or almost all. The beatings in Teheran, the bullet taken in the back in Mexico between the twelfth and thirteenth vertebra. From here the images that have been pinned on her... (To Paola, in Oggi, 1991): "That grotesque one of the pathetic soldier with the helmet on her head and the knife between her teeth. That stupid myopic one of the belligerent, ambitious, hard and pitiless, outright nasty woman who chases away everyone who enters her life... They've even attributed to me sentences I've never uttered to build up this fantasy, and by now this fantasy has crystallized into a "truth" that's hard to shake off." But she has often assumed the helmet-on-the-head role and continues to do so for long periods: what does she like about war? (To Feltri, in Europeo, 1991): "I don't like it in the sense that I like the inconveniences it imposes on me; I don't like it in the sense that I like the dangers it exposes me to, the danger of being killed, of getting wounded, of being captured. I like it for the intensified truth that war offers me, for what it teaches us about human beings. In war you can study existence as no philosopher will ever be able to study it. You can analyze men as no psychologist will ever be able to, understand them as you never could in a time or place of peace. Furthermore war offers the challenge of challenges, the wager of wagers: the challenge of death, the wager with life. That wager, that challenge attract me because to confront them you must conquer fear. And I hate fear." And she detests envy. (To Isabella Rossellini, Amica, 1980): "It's true that by now I am used to betrayals because I know that they primarily conceal envy and envy is the sister of ignorance. I must tell you why I am comfortable in New York. It's because here people react to success as a good quality. In Italy success is considered a drawback, a disability, a wrong, something in sum for which one must be punished. In Italy, anyone who is successful is at least an adulterer or a thief. Since you can't accuse me of either of these things, they say I'm nasty, mean, overbearing. That I'm a prima donna..."
Unpublished portrait of Oriana Fallaci: the greatest Italian woman writer
By Lucia Annunziata & Carlo Rosella
Panorama January 4, 2002
Translated by Chris Knipp
This isn't an interview - it's a well known fact that Oriana Fallaci doesn't grant them. This is a portrait that came into being though chance, through an unexpected coincidence (fortunate for us) as well as through an old friendship. Chance took us to New York and 'la Fallaci' into the lobby of the hotel where the two of us were standing with Rage and Pride in hand. We had both gotten it from the publisher in Rome thirty-six hours earlier, at the moment of its appearance in book shops. In New York, however, it hadn't yet arrived, and 'la Fallaci' hadn't seen it yet.
She immediately made out at a distance the red cover with the letters in gold. She had created it herself, had willed it, being as she is precise about every detail, every subtlety of the covers of her books - one concrete sign of the devouring passion she puts into her work. The encounter with those two first copies was irresistible. She threw herself in a rush upon what she called "my little book" and gathered us up along with it. It was the evening of Thursday, December 13, the same time as the release of bin Laden's confessional tape. We wanted to see that; we had to see it. She wanted to see it, and had to see it. We ended up at her house, right inside that brownstone protected by the two little gates and the entrance door that never opens - all three of us in front of the television set, pinned to the screen, listening to Bin Laden and his giggling over the thousands of dead while saying, "We had foreseen them but had not hoped for so many..." And as a commentary there was the voice of 'la Fallaci,' furious, rough, grieving: "Evil. Evil. Evil...[maledetto, maledetto, maledetto]."
The next day we met again and this time we had a tape recorder. We convinced her to accept it ("we swear it won't be an interview!"). It was a long day. And to our surprise we found ourselves guided along the same path she'd traversed in writing Rage and Pride, even in format, as you will see (including the parentheses, line headings, and subchapters). Then gradually the discussion moved away from the immediacy of current events, from Bin Laden's giggles, from his 'we had foreseen them but had not hoped for so many.' Little by little, finally, the discussion took on the form of a portrait - a portrait of her. And a moving one.
It's moving, because of the circumstances of what she casually calls "little-book" - moving, because of this publication, so long awaited, yet so unexpected. And then there is the exceptional number of copies sold. Announced only the morning of Tuesday, December 11, appearing in bookstores the morning of the twelfth, the two hundred thousand copies of the first edition were sold out in almost every city by late afternoon the same day. Since then, Rage and Pride has continually been reprinted. Fifty thousand copies come off Rizzoli's presses every day. As we write on Christmas Eve, the book has reached half a million copies. People have gone to bookstores who never went to them before. They stand in line, wait their turn, and very often buy more than one copy. It's a publishing phenomenon never seen or even conceived of before this.
But the point isn't just the number of copies sold so far. It's the fact that this book has redefined Italy's conception of the current conflict between the West and the Islamic world. Without terms of mediation or compromises or "if's" or "but's," without swimming in the sea of "everything goes" whose existence for her represents one of Italy's gravest defects, Oriana Fallaci has confronted the issue with ironclad simplicity. We're different, she has said - and, at this point, incompatible. Behind this war, she has said, there is a choice between our civilization and their religion; between us and them. With the era of ecumenism over, her violent commitment has tossed out the last vestiges of the "politically correct" [given in English] - which is to say, that concept of inclusiveness so broad as to become a loss of identity, that idea of cultural relativity leading into moral relativism and into an incapacity to take stands or defend differences. ("Defend" is the key verb in 'la Fallaci's' argument and becomes a call to action.)
Can we really be surprised that this call has lit such a fire of polemic and support? Can we marvel at that - in a country like ours, planted where the World's South begins, a country nurtured through the precarious balance of the Cold War, a country where Moslem immigrants arouse fear and al- Qa'ida cells make up fake passports? Shouldn't politicians and intellectuals, the two categories most scourged by 'la Fallaci,' ask themselves why this book is selling at such an unbelievable rate? Shouldn't they ask themselves what questions citizens are seeking answers to in buying Rage and Pride?
This is a success that's all the more powerful because it's not fabricated. Since the article in Il Corriere della Sera, which was the first draft (or condensed version) of the book, 'la Fallaci' hasn't spoken a word. As she warned, she hasn't participated in polemics or answered either her supporters or her detractors. And up till December 11 when publication was announced she compelled her publisher to maintain an absolute silence. She argued that she would not appeal to curiosity or feed impatience - and this fits with her nature. For years it has been well known that 'la Fallaci' doesn't answer the phone. She doesn't even have a message machine. To get in touch, her friends have to submit to a complicated system by which each friend corresponds to a certain number of rings. Then she calls back, actually, though, not without often having miscounted rings and picked the wrong person to call. She rarely opens her mail. Once, she realized a good eight months late that an unopened envelope contained a large refund of US taxes. She writes, and doesn't publish. For a good ten years no new text of hers has been available. These are indeed her habits; but there is always the unexpected moment when she breaks her bitter silence with a bang - and comes out of her self-imposed exile. And people react as if every night she had been on a stage or on TV. No one, during this silence, this self-imposed exile, has forgotten her. Everyone has continued to follow her, speak of her, write about her, dedicate covers, newspaper headlines and commentaries on television to her - expressions of homage that have only made her hide more than ever. In fact, she never appears on television, never participates in debates that concern her. She does no bookstore signings and, most remarkable, never responds to attacks. At most she appoints lawyers to pursue a few lawsuits.
Despite all this her books continue to be sold. More than best-sellers, they are long-sellers. Her Vietnam war book, which appeared in 1969, Nothing and So Be It, still sells, and well. Letter to a Child Never Born, which appeared in 1975, is now a classic worldwide. In the last twenty-two years she has received literally dozens of requests to make films from these. But no one has succeeded yet, for she is as demanding of others as she is of herself, not someone money can buy and indeed a person who despises money. As for her novel, Inshallah, which centers on the conflict between the western and Islamic worlds, since the tragedy of September 11 it has become one of the fastest selling of all books.
Those whom she calls the "cicadas" ("Don't ask me their names. You see them every day on television; you read them every day in the newspapers") continue to attack her. The people, on the contrary, love her. This difference is significant and in it is reflected the diminished nature of our national identity.
To understand her today is to understand also the extent of this incredible success of hers.
To speak of her is synonymous with war. War is a fulcrum of her identity as a writer and journalist. We'll come to this very soon - indeed, we'll deal with it at length. But now let's stop at the point where, among the chatting of friends, we come to weigh the past. We are talking about ourselves, about ourselves and about her. Things are appraised and told. In every young woman journalist of the last thirty years, and perhaps in every emancipated young woman, there's a little something of the pigtails of Oriana who, fleeing Vietcong fire, ran with bowed head across the bridge of Kien-Ho. There's something of those pigtails or of that perfect parting of long, smooth, straight hair. At a period when women wore bouffant hairdos and little pillbox hats and alternated miniskirts with Chanel, 'la Fallaci' was a model for those who eschewed short skirts and hair pins and contrived chic - for emancipated women of the generation following hers who went to war as mothers, wives, professionals, workers adopting her style of low heels and pants and no makeup. (We could actually have a whole other discussion of the perversity of imitation. It's not enough to copy a way of combing hair or dressing to become 'la Fallaci.' You have to have her culture, her class, her formative experiences and her courage to become 'la Fallaci' - and finally, above all, you have to have her intelligence, her personality, and her iron will.)
That style adopted out of convenience was nonetheless glamorous and not at all careless or unsexy. That clean face, forever marked by precocious lines of tension and fatigue, was one of the visages upon which, in the Sixties and Seventies, the apex of American glamour was constructed.
This was a glamour captured, for example, in the book Women by the celebrated photographer Francesco Scavullo, who included 'la Fallaci' in his list of the forty-six most fascinating and extraordinary women in the world. "I'm not the kind of person who accepts rules just because they're rules," 'la Fallaci' declared to Scavullo. She meant the rules of style and beauty, but her line encapsulated a little declaration of independence with makeup as metaphor, and it was an assertion that very well suited the hungry daughters of the next generation.
She thus became the epitome of the modern woman. It's hard to imagine a more modern woman than she who from her earliest years led what she called "a man's life" (being a war correspondent was only one aspect of her modernity). Her refusal to follow style was itself modern, for example. She wore pants when in America a woman wearing pants could not enter a public place. "Do you know how many restaurants refused to admit me because I wore pants?" But when pants became regular women's apparel, eternal contrarian that she was she took up dresses and hats. Modern also is her dictating fashion without intending to, as is her eccentric way with eyeliner. "I do it very fast, tac tac tac," she told Scavullo. Scavullo described the effect: "Two firm wide lines which she puts on herself and which exaggerate her astonishing oriental eyes. Those two lines have become her signature." It's a signature that marks her face still today. Over the years she has kept the face of the Oriana who ran across the Kien-Hoa bridge, and even the little thin body, and that mobile expression, that imperious hitching up of the shoulders, which is another of her physical characteristics. The way she combs her hair has changed, though. The long, smooth, straight hair today is tied back at the nape of the neck. This isn't flattering and she knows it, but she ties it back that way on purpose. "It's the way eighteenth century gentlemen from Jefferson to Robespierre wore their hair. It's neat, convenient and can be finished off with a little bow. I like it that way. My grandmother said, 'If I don't please you, don't let it bother you, just turn the other way.'" As for the oriental eyes, they have more lines, obviously - lines which she wouldn't part with, she insists, defending them with pride. "They're my medals."
Cowards on one hand, brave people on the other: a drastic distinction, it's the foundation of 'la Fallaci's' judgments. She makes an almost maniacal cult of courage. "Courage" along with "fear" is the word she utters most often. In their opposition they are themes without subtle distinctions. It's no coincidence that one of her models is Jack London, a writer beloved of the young. She speaks at length of Jack London in the preface she wrote for the Bur edition of The Call of the Wild. In Jack London as journalist, war correspondent, novelist, and adventurer she sees herself deeply reflected. As an adolescent, she confided during our long day together, she used to say "I'd like to become Jacqueline London."
The surest definition she can give of herself consequently is that of Soldier. "I am a soldier. I've been that since I was a girl when I became a partisan in my antifascist family: a soldier." The connection between Oriana and war goes back to that - to her own life history. (For the contribution that she made to the struggle against nazi- fascists when hardly fourteen, General Alexander, Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in Italy during World War II, sent her a laudatory letter of thanks.) "There is a depressing intimacy," she said, giving weight to the word "depressing," "between me and arms, me and explosions, me and fear and courage and death. War, in sum. God knows, alas, how sincere is the cry I uttered against the sons of Allah in my little book: "In war I was born, in war I grew up, I understand war better than you do. And I have more balls than you do who to find the courage to die must kill thousands of creatures. You've wanted war, you want war? As far as I'm concerned, let there be war. Until the last breath."
Her dispatches from Vietnam were so perfect precisely because of this. In its notable series of books on Vietnam, Time magazine has also included many of her articles from the front - a rare homage from a country that saw in Vietnam the best of her journalism in action. Her being a soldier herself leads her to respect all soldiers. Even those of al-Qa'ida who as we speak are sustaining American bombardments at Tora Bora. All of a sudden she turns the television back on. Instead of the confession tape the screen is transmitting images of those bombardments. She looks at them and as she comments on them her voice is no longer that furious, rough, grieving one when she listened to the giggles of bin Laden. It's a respectful voice: "Certainly among them there are aspiring kamikazes. But at this moment they're not dying by killing thousands of creatures: they're dying in combat. As soldiers. In this moment I respect them. So I salute them." Then she explains how much she despises the Taliban who fled or who gave themselves up without fighting. And she includes another surprising judgment: "There is a very great difference between the Italian soldiers who gave themselves up to the Germans on September 8, 1943 and the Germans who defended Berlin till the last man in 1945." And when we express our astonishment: "Of course I have respect for the defense of Berlin! Of course I have respect for the al- Qa'ida at Tora Bora! There is heroism in their resistance! Can one perhaps deny the heroism of our enemies? To deny that would mean to become fanatics like them."
From the soldier she gets her discipline. "My discipline, or rather self-discipline, is of military stamp: I recognize that. It's not an accident that in Vietnam I was willingly accepted by the American soldiers because I never allowed myself to bring harm to the platoon or company with infractions or personal initiatives. I conducted myself just like a soldier among soldiers. However, this discipline, or rather self-discipline, isn't something I follow only in war. I follow it in peace, in my private life, and above all in work. When I write for example. In order to write I don't await so called inspiration. If I'm not in some hospital or library or archive, every morning I go to the desk. I go to work like a factory worker or an employee who punches a time clock." This discipline of hers is so military that it becomes legitimate to ask oneself if she knows how to live without war, if she is capable of keeping her distance from wars. This, while the images of Tora Bora still flicker on the screen, is what we tell her. And like a good soldier, half embarrassed and half reticent, she admits it. "Alas, your suspicion contains an element of truth. And the reason can be found, I think, in the life I've led. It's because of the life I've led, I believe, that war is my continual point of reference - that I see everything in terms of peace and war. Unappealing, wouldn't you say? Well, then, let's tell the whole truth...I have spoken of a depressing intimacy. I should also acknowledge a depressing sympathy. From whence comes that sympathy? Look. Here. Look...War is the challenge of challenges, because it's a challenge that you demand of yourself. When you take action to participate in combat or when you're in combat, no one looks after you; no one looks at you. You're completely alone with yourself, the judge of yourself. Thus it is to yourself that the challenge is made to go forward, to conquer fear, to remain alive...And to yourself, finally, that you must not look bad. Because you can't lie to yourself or carry out deceptions. And...look: committed as I was to condemn war, I've always recounted the horrors of war - and stopped there. I've never had the strength to confess the dark fascination, the perverse seductiveness, that war exerts or is capable of exerting upon anyone who finds himself in it. It's a seduction, God forgive me, that's born of its vitality - the vitality precisely of that challenge. Let's say it once and for all, head covered with ashes, but once and for all: I've never felt so alive as when, having won the challenge to myself, I've come out alive from combat or from war."
Seductiveness. The word has been spoken. And now she speaks of fear: "Anyone who says he isn't afraid in war is a fool or a liar. And note well: all the fools and liars who say they haven't been afraid in war were, and are, those who follow wars from a comfortable hotel room. I've never encountered them at the front. Look, in war you're always afraid. Any soldier, of any race or nation, will tell you that. He'll also tell you that every time is the first time, and every time is worse than the time before. Because every time he knows more, is more aware of the risk. However, the point isn't to be afraid but to overcome fear, to act in the face of fear, and war has taught me this."
A little indiscretion (will we forgive her?): "I have always said that, once dead, they can do what they want with my body - for example, use it as manure for an olive tree. But I'm not so sure about that... All in all, I wouldn't mind being buried with military honors. You know, the ones where the flag waves under the sun, the cannon fires into the air, and the trumpet goes paparapa( paparapa("...and all at once she explodes in happy laughter, enjoying herself.
She declares that she writes slowly and has for years been working on a grand novel that she claims to want to have published posthumously, but she wrote Rage and Pride in two months. She is ill with a cancer which weakens and consumes her, but she appears to burst with driving energy and works as if she were in good health. She says she is in exile from a country she loves passionately and is more involved in Italian events than anyone in Italy. She is pitiless in anger, and yet can be inexplicably restrained and sweetly affectionate. Her generous impulses have the same intensity as her reprisals and either can arrive unexpectedly.
These are all signs of an unbridled passion that can carry her to total immoderation in all things and pull her to heights and depths of emotion following world events. As last evening in front of the television screen when the bin Laden tape confession was broadcast. And as today when she says "In Rage and Pride I hold that bin Laden is only the present tip of the iceberg - the part of the mountain that emerges from the abysses of his own blindness, which since fourteen hundred has been able to produce only religion. I hold that the real protagonist in this Holy War is not he: it is that mountain. And I repeat that now. But I cannot deny, no one can deny, that bin Laden is a major personality. He is to the same degree that Khomeini was, and you know why? Because, despite his perfidy and despicableness, he, like Khomeini, was born out of passion. Made of passion. We no longer have personalities made of passion, born out of passion. To find those you have to go back to our past. To Saint Francis, to Saint Teresa, to Torquemada himself. To Danton, Marat, Robespierre. To Napoleon, Nelson, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Cavour. To Lenin, Stalin, to Churchill who promised to fight Hitler with "tears and blood." To Mao Tze Tung, Ho Chi Minh. There I will stop, because for half a century the West in the field of leaders has had only mediocrities. Bastards or half-pints with little more than the name of leader. The only personality the West has produced during the last half century is Karol Wojtyla. A man of faith, a man of the church. For the rest, even in art, music, painting, poetry, aside from Picasso we have had nothing but mediocrities. You know why? Because we've lost our passion. Because we've replaced passion with rationalism. Worse: with hedonism, the cult of the commodity, with softness. And with a badly interpreted concept of equality that appeases, levels, extinguishes genius and personality. With these it extinguishes art, it extinguishes poetry. Poetry. Tell me: where is art this last half century? Where is poetry? We've got science and nothing more, technology and nothing more, comfort and nothing more. You can't live without passion. You can't even fight or defend yourself without passion. Well, I don't know how to live without passion. I don't know how to fight or to defend myself without passion. Everything I do, I do out of passion and for the sake of passion. Out of passion I write, out of passion I get mad, out of passion I rant, and with passion I fight. And, by God, my little book springs forth from passion. I'm sure that the Italians read it, listen to what I say, not only because I speak the truth but because I speak it with passion."
How can one find fault with her? Yesterday Sofia Loren, her friend Sofia, called her from Los Angeles, using the secret predetermined ring. With her bubbling voice, full of life, she said "How beautiful your book is, my Oriana, how lovely! It seems written with the wisdom of a hundred-and-fifty- year-old and the passion of an eighteen-year-old."
She describes herself as "an antique lady," meaning "a woman in the antique style." The brownstone where she lives in New York is antique (mid-nineteenth century) and furnished in the antique style: furniture, lamps, shades, paintings, ceramics, knickknacks, even the telephones. Her place in Florence and her house in Tuscany are similar. Everything she collects is antique, beginning with the books - seventeenth century, eighteenth century, nineteenth century volumes of Boccaccio, Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, Shakespeare in all possible editions, histories of the French revolution, the Napoleonic campaigns, the Italian risorgimento, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Cavour. But it is not a twilight closure that dictates these choices: it is another one of her passions, the passion for the past, about which, moreover, she has written a lovely passage in Rage and Pride. "For me every object from the past is sacred. A fossil, a shard, a small coin, whatever testimony of that which we were and of that which we made. The past intrigues me more than the future. I shall never tire of asserting that the future is a hypothesis, a conjecture, a supposition: that is, a non- reality. At most, it is a hope to which we try to give shape through dreams and fantasies about it. The past, on the other hand, is a certainty, a concrete thing, an established reality - a school which one cannot disregard because if one does not know the past one does not understand the present and cannot try to influence the future with dreams and fantasies. And every object that has survived from the past is precious because it carries within it an illusion of eternity, because it represents a victory over time, which wears down and withers away and kills. A defiance of death."
She is a severe lady. She dresses severely. Her present uniform is a skirt (only occasionally pants) and sweater. Of cotton in summer, wool in winter, in all possible colors running the gamut of severity Low heeled shoes. To liven up the new uniform, a little old jewelry. As we've said, her hair is combed severely, without coiffure. The "look" she produces is indeed elegant and impeccable but almost monastic. She lives severely, without luxuries and, in their place, with Spartan habits. With severity she despises money, this too has been said, and judges with severity. She punishes with severity and, if necessary, punishes herself. With severity she refuses almost all the conveniences that modern technology offers our world. For starters: the computer. She has never possessed one. And woe to you if you offer her one, if you try to make her a present of one. She uses the same old manual Olivetti that she used in Vietnam. It's wearing out now and is almost unusable. To avoid using new and modern machines she has learned by herself how to keep it together with plastering supplies from a dentist's office. Like a violinist who plays only on his own violin, she can write only on this machine. She has actually said she can't write on a silent machine. "If I don't hear it clacking, the words don't come to me - thoughts don't even come to me." In place of silent machines, in place of computers, an almost scandalous number of typewriters from the early twentieth century. She collects them like authorial souvenirs.
Someone accuses her of playing Greta Garbo. But she's not offended, because she notes that the comparison is legitimate. Greta Garbo too led a severe and retiring life. Greta Garbo too dressed and wore her hair in a severe manner. Greta Garbo too surrounded herself with objects from the past. And until her death Greta Garbo lived not far from where she now lives, in this small circuit of elegant streets in midtown Manhattan. Many years ago their paths crossed at an exclusive little grocery shop on Fifty-seventh street, Dover Delicacies. One evening, she tells us with a gentle smile, they ran into each other right in front of the shop entrance. She was still very young then. Garbo was already old. She had her little steak, Garbo a chicken. It was raining. She hadn't an umbrella; Garbo had one. In silence, Garbo accompanied her to the door of her building. ("And you didn't ask her for an interview?" "Oh, no, of course not! I knew she didn't grant them." "And how did the two of you part?" "I said 'Thank you, madam, how sweet of you.' And she answered 'You're welcome, Miss Fallaci. Have a good night.'")
In a world that lives by publicity, she eschews it. And she does so because she detests it - in every form and every aspect. Twenty or thirty years ago it was not hard to persuade her to do what the publishers came to define as promotion; that is, to participate in the launching of one of her books with interviews, television appearances, and so on. Then this gradually became more and more difficult. Now it's impossible, most emphatically so. And it follows that this is due to the hostile attitude almost all journalists have adopted toward her, as we shall see. In large part, however, it's due to her own character, or rather to her sincere need for privacy, a need that respects the privacy of others, and that's dealt with in another fine passage in Rage and Pride, the passage dealing with her embarrassment in the company of Golda Meir when the latter told her marital secrets and Ali Bhutto when he confessed the drama of his wedding night and then thought better of it and begged her not to write about it. She did write nothing about it, and years later the two met again by chance. They began talking about the Islamic world and Bhutto said "I was wrong to ask you not to write that story. One day you'll have to tell the whole thing." And in this book she tells it concluding, "There is Bhutto. Wherever she may be - let's not worry if she's nowhere but under the ground - I've kept my promise to her."
This shows a character that she confirms by saying "I was and am the friend of some very famous people but I've never, never betrayed them by gossiping. I've never, never revealed things they've said during dinner or while we were walking in the street. Two of these friends, both dead of cancer, I loved very much. One was Ingrid Bergman, the other Maria Callas. And if God existed He would bear witness that I never, never, never told of their private doings - doings I knew about as well as they knew about mine. One evening here in New York I happened to see a long program about Callas. My immediate thought was 'Oh God, poor Maria! What will they start going on about, those gossips, to show that they knew her well?' Well, one told anecdotes so intimate that - I was eating - I took my plate and threw it on the floor. In the case of Bergman, to whom I was perhaps closer than to Callas, ditto. I see her daughter Isabella often. She lives in New York not far from my house and she's almost like family to me. But I haven't told even her about the things her mother told me."
In these ten years in which her self-exile, her silence, has crystallized, requests for interviews have regularly arrived from all over the world. And in the past two months, since the publication of the article that carries the same title as the book, the demand for interviews has grown beyond bounds. But not once has she given in. "And if I think about what you'll do after this meeting, it gives me the shivers. I wonder what came over me to meet with you again and give in to the frigging recorder. . .I never recognize myself in the things other people write about me. When I see an article about me I feel I'm reading something about an unknown person, a stranger. Interviews I detest, because they always assign me things I haven't said, or else they distort and twist things so much that the meaning is changed. This has always filled me with annoyance because, as you know, interviews are a subject I know something about. Journalism based on interviews is my invention. My own interviews have always been so rigorously precise and correct. I've never betrayed anyone. Even dealing with a person I hated and did not respect, I was careful to report faithfully whatever this or that person told me. No one has ever been able to accuse me of having inserted a distortion or lie in their responses. For several hours Kissinger tried to accuse me of that, and finally he had to eat his accusatory words. Others, however. . .And apropos of the very, very unappealing Kissinger: it's he who has written lies about me, because in his book The White House Years, a book moreover in which he claims he met me to 'appear in my Pantheon of world figures,' he expounds upon an interview that I never carried out or even requested - one with the north Vietnamese Le Duc Tho. It was no accident that after his book was published I sent word to him that even as a historian he wasn't worth beans. What kind of historian is one who recounts things that never happened? Yes, indeed, he too has contributed to the fact that I trust no one any more. I don't give interviews because I don't trust the people who do them. And you'd better be careful. You'd better watch out if you transform this three-way conversation into an interview."
It was the publication of Inshallah that signaled her definitive farewell to promotion. She appeared in France, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Spain, and America, but - except for Paris, where Francoise Sagan convinced her to take part in a television broadcast with her - not to grant interviews. In each of those countries, in fact, she limited herself to reading pages from the novel. At times her refusals caused displeasure to herself because of those she refused. At that time she was, for instance, displeased to refuse Bruno Vespa and Enrico Mentana. "They had always been so nice to me, so generous. To say no to them was like a thorn in my heart. But I couldn't face exhibiting myself on television. It makes me suffer anguish, I'm so uncomfortable. You tell them - Vespa and Mentana - that they shouldn't take offense, that my refusal wasn't directed at them and that I was very sorry to disappoint them." And then: "But how can you two always appear on television? Doesn't it make you uncomfortable and upset you? Look, at this point in my life I only would appear on television as a war correspondent. At the front, you understand. Not behind the lines where it gives you the feeling of running unlimited risks but you're seeing explosions from at least five kilometers away."
You see, everything about her life seems to be known. And her way of writing, almost always in the first person, favors this misunderstanding. But what she tells about herself when she talks about herself is in reality a way of hiding herself, of distracting attention, of smuggling in an almost maniacal sense of privacy. As for the things others tell about her, often, indeed almost always, they are completely invented or altered by the fabrications of someone who doesn't know her. Except for the case of Alexander Panagoulis, in fact, her sentimental journey is completely unknown. Except for her profession, her way of living is unknown. Her tastes, her habits, her idiosyncrasies: unknown. And even if we are her friends, listening to her we always end up surprised. About her, in reality, one knows very little.
She is one of those few Italians of today known throughout the world. When she went to Qom (the sacred city of Iranian Shiites) to interview Khomeini, she necessarily had to walk the streets with her face half covered by a chador, but a group of Iranian students recognized her by her terrifying eyes. They ran up to her yelling "Fallatzi, Fallatzi!" In an Iran where women were worth the same as a camel, she was, finally, valued like a man. A few years ago she went to China on a private trip. When she arrived in Peking the airport was swarming with cameramen and photographers. "Oh my God, an important person must have arrived. You'll see how long it's going to take to get through customs," she said to her sister, Paola, who was traveling with her. "Couldn't you be the important person?" Paola answered. And she said, "Don't talk nonsense." Actually in fact she was the important person. And in the hurly-burly, she says, she even lost her hat. (More often one imagines her with a helmet on. But her elegance includes hats. Sophisticated women's hats, not soldiers'.) There are even boy scout associations named after Oriana Fallaci in China. And in China also she received a homage not granted even to her enemy Kissinger, who had sought it: giving a lecture in the exclusive Great Hall of the Academy of the Sciences, a Great Hall packed with notables. Young people who had come in special tour busses from neighboring cities had to hear her on loudspeakers in other halls or outside the building. And so, she gave a very challenging speech.
In 1981 students of Harvard Law School protested that the commencement speech should be given not by General Haig, then Secretary of State and already the commencement speaker officially designated by the university, but by 'La Fallaci.' She gave the speech, and they're still talking about it at Harvard. In the same years in Belgrade the theater (packed with people) in which she was presenting A Man, was stormed by the crowd pushed back by firemen who for security reasons were not allowing more people to enter. A venerable American academic institution, Boston University, for forty years has had an "Oriana Fallaci Special Collection" dedicated to her in which are gathered all her manuscripts, all the translations of her books, and all the materials related to her work. In America she has received prestigious honorary degrees. In the Library of Congress History of Illustrious Italians there are only two photographs of celebrated Italian women: Eleanora Duse and Oriana Fallaci. The caption states: "Her writings have carried political journalism to a new level. Her interviews with leaders and powerful figures of the world are astonishing both for their fearlessness and for their probing intelligence."
But in Italy, where honorary degrees are also given to foreign journalists: nothing. No honor, no recognition has ever come to her from her beloved patria, nor from her beloved city, Florence. Apart from a few literary prizes, the only homage that has come to her in Italy remains the one General Alexander dedicated to her in 1945 to memorialize her work as a partisan "baby." Far from thanking her for having carried her name as an Italian throughout the world, Italy has been no mother to her - not even a wicked stepmother. For decades the overwhelming majority of our newspapers have dumped a pile of calumnies and insults upon her that are as unjustified as they are ridiculous. And she has not forgotten any of them. Even today (and you can see this in Rage and Pride) she can recite them from memory.
When Letter to a Child Never Born was published, a Milan daily printed an article that began with these words, "Ugly, ugly, ugly. Uglier than this is not possible. It will last only for a summer." A Rome daily, another entitled: "The Uterus in the Brain." In Italy the book has now sold over a million and half copies. It has been translated into twenty-one languages and published in thirty-one countries. It has become a modern classic even in Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, and several Arab nations, not to mention India where it is available in several Indic dialects.
A few days before publication of A Man (the novel about the Greek hero Alexander Panagoulis, her life companion for three years - that is, from the moment when he was released from the Boiati prison until the moment when he was killed in a faked auto accident), a Rome daily published a full page article with the title "Why One Should Not Read 'La Fallaci's' Book." The socialist monthly Croniche Sociali dedicated a cover to her photograph, and under the photograph was printed: "Here is the true assassin of Panagoulis." In the article 'La Fallaci' was in fact accused of having made a gift to Panagoulis of the automobile that he was driving at the moment when they killed him...Worse: due to the fact that for security reasons the book was not typeset at the Rizzoli print shop, the then President of the Council ordered the Carabinieri to search every print shop in Italy for the text "suspected of being an anti-government work." It was one of those same Carabinieri officers given this assignment who revealed the affair years later. Worse yet: even this time the book was slashed to ribbons by enemy journalists. But, as in the case of Letter to a Child Never Born, it was an enormous success. Sales were exceptional. Abroad it appeared in the usual thirty-one countries, translated into the usual twenty-one languages, and today it is one of the most loved works that modern Italian literature has produced. Nor is that all. Two months before Inshallah appeared, when the book's title wasn't even yet known, the most famous Rome daily dedicated two whole pages to an attack on it. In this it was said among other things that all her interviews with world heads of state were the product of her imagination. It was as if to say that the meeting with Khomeini had never happened, likewise the one with Ghaddafi, or with Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Deng Xiao Ping, etc., ditto. (The tapes of these interviews, preserved in special containers at a special temperature, are found in the Oriana Fallaci Collection at Boston University). As if this weren't enough, when one of the greatest Italian journalists (Bernardo Valli) separated himself from the chorus to dedicate an article to her describing Inshallah as a masterpiece, he found himself ostracized by the rest of his colleagues.
No, she hasn't forgotten the attacks. And yet she speaks of them with a disdainful detachment. "Don't ask me the motive for this madness: let me ask you that. I only know that every time I was incredulous and exclaimed 'Why?' I belong to no party. I belong to no group, no literary mafia. I never speak ill of anyone. I never insult other people's books. Even if I don't like them, I never say that they are bad. I know all too well the enormous effort of writing a book. Whether it's good or bad, I respect that effort with all my soul. As everyone knows, I lead a retiring life. I never put myself in competition with others. What is it then that disturbs them?"
We answer her with a single word: success. Then she smiles bitterly. "I know that idiots associate success with happiness. With wealth, with privilege, but above all with happiness. Let's take the case of movie stars, much worse abused than I. Idiots abuse them because they think that, besides being rich and privileged, they're happy. But happiness has nothing to do with success, fame, popularity, or wealth. If anything success is almost always a source of unhappiness. I know many people who are successful. I'm the friend of many successful people, and I can assure you that I see much more unhappiness among them than among people who have no success. Once Elizabeth Taylor said that success is a deodorant. Perhaps because I have nothing to deodorize, I'd argue on the contrary that success is a source of much discomfort. You know why? Because it becomes a kind of reproof or even humiliation for those who believe themselves to deserve it but who don't achieve it. This is a phenomenon, please note, that's never observed in simple people. Simple people love successful people. They identify them with their dreams and ambitions. They establish a kind of link with them of imaginary identification - or of out and out gratitude. Envy comes from people who've had some small degree of success themselves, particularly those who belong to the same surroundings and practice the same profession as the envied person. Thus the first ones to envy, then hate, then verbally assault or insult a successful actor or actress are actually actors who've had little or no success. The first ones to envy, then hate, then verbally assault or insult the successful footballer or singer or politician will actually be footballers and singers and politicians who've had little or no success. The first ones to envy, then hate, then verbally assault or insult successful writers are actually writers who've had little or no success. Among non-writers I find many, many, many people who love me. And you want to know the whole truth? That to me is enough. It consoles me, it honors me, and it's enough."
The so-called Italian intelligentsia has never been generous to her. Indeed, they have always been hostile. To become aware of this one has only to leaf through the collection of newspapers and reviews that publish the writings of the official reviewers, the overseers of good and bad, recognized by the intellectual cliques. But to the suspicion that many of the wrongdoings of which she has been attacked if not persecuted derive from her not belonging to a political party or group, or club, or lobby (including the lobbies of the literary mafia), she reacts with minor detachment. This time in answering her voice returns to a rough and grieving tone like it had last night when she cursed Bin Laden. At moments it changes almost to a whisper. "Ah, yes. The Italians rarely understand that: independent judgment, the judgment of the citizen who thinks with his own brain and refuses to allow himself to be drawn up into the ideological ranks. They're so used to being lined up in ranks, to being with the Guelfs or the Ghibellines, with the Catholics or the Protestants, the reformists or the counter reformists, the pope or the emperor, the French or the Austrians, the Americans or the Russians, they don't understand someone who doesn't stand with either side and sees the faults of both. Theirs is an centuries-old malady and they aren't yet cured of it. At times I wonder if they'll ever be cured. As everyone knows, I adopted a very precise position against the Vietnam war when I went to Saigon for the first time in 1967. From the front I wrote some very severe things about what I judged to be a senseless conflict. Likewise in 1968. Naturally the communists of that time were very happy with this. The reported excerpts of my reportage with enthusiasm, for example where I described a battle in Dak-To, the village on the edge of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In their editorials I assumed the role of a heroine and none of them put in doubt what I had written and continued to write. Grateful and seduced, then, the North Vietnamese invited me to Hanoi in 1969: it was a privilege they rarely accorded even to their fellow travelers. With the same eyes, the same ears, the same brain, the same independence of judgment, I then went to Hanoi. And there I saw the most Stalinist, tyrannical, fascist regime I'd ever known since I'd begun the practice of my profession. From this there derived even more severe articles than I had written from Saigon, from South Vietnam. Open, ye Heavens! The communists who had so exulted me assaulted me, insulted me, more than I had ever been assaulted and insulted in my life till that moment. No one attempted an examination of conscience; no one asked himself if the things I'd written from the North were as true as those I'd written from the South. And among their sympathizers and fellow travelers none praised the honesty of this woman who with unaltered candor denounced the wrong she found. The heroine became a reprobate. The respectable person, a delinquent. The truth teller, a liar. And so on. Well, After Rage and Pride, the same thing happened. Thirty-two years have passed, and the same thing is happening. In the article published in the newspaper I spoke little of Cavaliere. I had set aside the little section on him with many others because it was too long and I saved it to put in my little book. Thus after the article many of my admirers were among his followers - just like the communists had done after my first articles from South Vietnam. The ex-communists and so called progressives, on the other hand, lined up against me, going so far as to distort my name to Orjena instead of Oriana and Oriana Bin Laden instead of Oriana Fallaci. Once the little book was out, though, with the little section set aside for Cavaliere, the insults and vulgarities came to me from his followers - exactly what had happened with the communists after my articles from North Vietnam. The most disconcerting thing is the way the language used against me by the right was exactly equal to what had been used by the left. Orjena Fallaci and Oriana Bin Laden in the newspapers of the right became Taliban Fallaci. You see, right and left are really the two sides of the same face - the face of bigotry, of intolerance, of the incapacity to be free and think with one's own brain. Anyone in Italy who doesn't stand on one side or the other, who is neither Guelf nor Ghibelline, automatically becomes a sinner - a heretic to be burned at the stake. The fact is that I'm very proud of being, in that sense, a sinner, a heretic to be burned at the stake. I'm very proud to have no political umbrellas, to belong to no group or club or lobby, to be attacked by both sides. It's the greatest compliment that can be accorded to my honesty. And you want to know the truth? I'm convinced that the Italians who are strangers to groups, clubs, and lobbies of the political mafia are absolutely on my side. What proves it is the number of those who buy and read Rage and Pride.
THE WOMAN OF CULTURE
She is a woman of culture. She has a profound knowledge of history - the history, for example, of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Italian Risorgimento, the unification of Italy. . .(of Fascism and of World War II she says: "That's stuff I've studied till it's in my bones"). Obviously she knows literary history equally well, and, as a Florentine, has an almost inborn knowledge of the history of art. She loves music and mathematics, and moreover has based the novel Inshallah on mathematics. Culture is, together with politics, an obsession that runs in her veins. A similar obsession ran in the veins of her parents for whom books (laboriously paid for in installments) were really very much a status symbol. It comes to her also from her legendary uncle Bruno, the famous journalist Bruno Fallaci - a very cultured man, Uncle Bruno, for whom she has always nurtured a profound admiration. Her book, indeed, is dedicated both to her parents and to him. The most destructive insult that can be addressed to her is to call her "Ignorant, illiterate, an ass." She charges politicians, intellectuals, and journalists with ignorance. She entered the field of journalism at the age of seventeen; she has dedicated the greater part of her life to it. She has distinguished herself as a journalist, as everyone knows. She recognizes that she owes a great deal to journalism ("It gave me the gifts of adventure, knowledge, experience. And, above all, the exercise of writing journalistically taught me to write"). Despite all this she does not like to be described as a journalist. Twenty years ago she abandoned the profession without regrets. She returned to it only once for a very few months, during the Gulf War - a war in which she participated purely out of curiosity. "I wanted to see a technological war. All I saw was a show for CNN." Of the life she led in working for newspapers she says "I was a writer on loan to journalism." Once someone asked her, "What would you like inscribed on your tombstone?" Without hesitation she answered: "Oriana Fallaci, Writer." She says that she might have practiced many other professions: doctor, classical ballerina, archaeologist, soldier. But she adds: "Even if I had acquired another profession, I'd have ended up being a writer. A writer as well. And particularly a novelist." At sixteen, when she took the final exams at the Liceo Galileo Galilei in Florence, she received the highest honors in Italian due to her knowledge of English and Italian literatures and to the theme she had written about "The Concept of Patria from the Greek Polis Till Today." This she handled in such an audacious manner that the members of the examining board judged it scandalous, but it was so well written that they were forced to give her a 10. And yet she hates to write. "Writing is the most fatiguing profession in the world. I grow tired like a porter, a miner, someone who does heavy manual work." But she can't help writing. When she learned that she had cancer, she didn't ask the oncologist how many years she had left to live, she asked "How many books do I have left to write?
Alien is the name that she gives cancer - a reality of which she says, "I'm convinced that cancer is an intelligent malignity, a creature that thinks. When the big one grabbed me ten years ago I said 'I want to see it.' And two days later I saw it through a microscope. Seen that way, it was only a white stone. Clean, almost graceful. Sectioned, however, it seemed like a crowd of people going mad. You know, that crowd that goes to rock concerts and to audiences with the Pope? There was something in this mass of cells fighting among themselves that made one think of a creature from another planet. Very, very interesting. From then on I named it The Alien and I had a very intense dialogue with it - the same kind of dialogue I might have with Usama Bin Laden if I found myself in intimate circumstances with him. As in the case of Bin Laden, I don't actually know where he's hiding - in what cave, in what region of my body. But I know he's there, I know he wants to kill me, and that he will kill me, and therefore I engage in a dialogue with him. I tell him, 'You're smart, but you're dumb. You're a frigging idiot. You don't understand that you exist because I exist, that to live, you need me. Therefore, if you kill me, you die with me. Isn't it worth it to you to try to coexist with me and let me finish what I have to finish?' My oncologist, who is a woman, thinks that I'm right. She thinks that cancer can be staved off by the brain more than it can by the surgeon or chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However things stand, the fact remains- keeping my fingers crossed - that through this dialogue I've staved if off for some years. I talk with it and I talk about it. I never hide the fact that I have cancer and I think someone who does so is wrong. It's a mistake to think having cancer is shameful or wrong. I find it monstrous that some define it as an 'incurable disease.' Why incurable? It's not true that it's incurable! Of course it can be cured! It's a disease like any other, like viral hepatitis, TB or heart disease. It isn't even the most unpleasant disease, in that it's not contagious. It's actually one of the few non- contagious diseases that exist in the world! And I owe it a lot. Before having The Alien, I took all for granted [given in English]. I mean, everything seemed my due. The sun, the blue sky, the miracle of life... Since I have it I value life more. I value the sun, the blue sky, the rain, the fog, the heat, the cold: Life. Finally, I value the miracle of life. And then I owe to The Alien the fact of having found the courage to write the novel that I'd never had the courage to begin, because I knew how long and difficult it would be - the novel to which I allude in the preface to Rage and Pride. I brought that book back to life. When The Alien attacked me I said, 'Damn it, this is deadly. I've got to get to work right away.'"
She buys cigarettes by the score, fifteen cartons at a time. They deliver them to her in big black plastic bags similar to garbage bags. They are special cigarettes that are available only at Sherman's in New York. A great grandchild of Sherman, the Civil War general. They're called "Virginia Circles," and she alternates the Virginia Circles with "Sigarettellos." In both cases they are cigarettes that resemble little cigars because the paper they are wrapped in is brown. She is absolutely convinced of their therapeutic value. "Smoking," she says, "disinfects the lungs." And woe to anyone who attributes the cancer to the cigarettes. She loses her ancient-lady composure and shouts "This story of cigarettes and smoking is a totally ignorant explanation. The more ignorant a doctor is, the more he attributes diseases to smoking. You've got heart disease? It's the fault of smoking. Got a stomach ache? It's the fault of cancer. Got a callus on your foot, breast cancer or lung cancer? It's the fault of smoking. My mother didn't smoke and she died of cancer. My father didn't smoke and he died of cancer. My sister Nee'ra didn't smoke, and she died of cancer. Uncle Bruno didn't smoke and he died of cancer. My sister Paola never smoked and cancer caught her before it did me. In my house we only die of cancer. And, please note, it came to me last, when only my sister Paola and I were left. Anyway, cigarettes have nothing to do with it. If in my case smoke has anything at all to do with it, it's the smoke I breathed in Kuwait right after the Gulf War. Remember the oil wells Saddam Hussein set fire to? I call it the Story of the Black Cloud. I was with a platoon of marines in the desert, and all of a sudden the wind whipped the tail of the Black Cloud. A dense, muddy, sticky soot descended upon us. We were enveloped in total darkness. We were forced to stop because if we had proceeded blind we would have risked striking mines. We held up for around an hour and a half. And when it was all over we were half dead. We were gathered up and taken to the military hospital where the marines were held in the infirmary. But I was forced to return to Dahran to write the article. I was very unwell in the days that followed, and while I was feeling so unwell I had to interview a high official of the Petroleum Ministry to whom I told the whole story. 'Do you smoke?' he asked me. 'I certainly do,' I answered. 'Well, inside the Black Cloud you breathed the equivalent of ten million cigarettes. From now on you can smoke whatever you want.' A year and a half later, exactly when the 450 marines who had breathed the Black Cloud were being held in various American hospitals, especially the one in Bethesda, I got cancer too. I have to admit that before the operation I made a vow: I promised myself that I would never smoke again. But when I awoke from the anesthetic two of the surgeons who'd operated on me were at the foot of the bed, smoking. 'What!!' I said, dumbfounded. "Ms. Fallaci,' they answered, 'cancer is genetic. Cigarettes have nothing to do with it.' In that case, give me one right now,' I said. I started smoking again right there in bed in the clinic. And I haven't stopped since that day."
Yes, she smokes a lot. But in reality she does so with much caution - without inhaling. More than a desire to smoke, actually, hers is a nervous gesture. A tic. To light a cigarette, lift it to her mouth, hold it between her teeth. The tic becomes anxious in two instances: when she is very tense and when she writes. She cannot separate the act of writing from the motions of smoking. There is a kind of symbiosis between her typing and her smoking, her writing and her smoking. In other words, she uses cigarettes the way in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century certain writers used alcohol. She smokes to write, that is, as they used to get drunk to write. But alcohol is foreign to her. "I've never gotten drunk in my whole life. I don't even know what it's like to get drunk."
She has no fear of old age. On the contrary she likes it, respects it. And she bears it no ill will. "I don't understand the stupid men and women," she says, "who are ashamed of being old and try to appear less old than they are. Men who try to hide bald spots, for example. Women who have plastic surgery or at seventy are horrified by a single white hair. I don't do such silly things and never have. Even though I may now appear younger than the Who's Who says and I may always have, I carry my age with pride and always have. I don't use rejuvenating creams and never have. I don't get plastic surgery and never have. I'm very sorry not to have white hair and am jealous of my sister Paola who, though she's much younger than me, has gray hair. Gray hair is so beautiful. White hair is so chic. Christ, I'd sell my soul to have white, or at least gray, hair, just so even from a distance people could see how old I am. Old age is a victory, a state of good fortune, given that the alternative is the cemetery: isn't that true? Then, quite happily, she says: "Listen to me carefully, you young people. Old age is a splendid season - because it's the season that grants us the gift of complete freedom. In youth I didn't feel really free. I exercised my freedom but I didn't feel really free. The freedom I enjoyed was political, not an inner freedom. Not a psychological freedom. Depriving me of psychological freedom were the tyranny of adults, of teachers, of my own parents, not to mention the tyranny that males exert over females. Complete freedom is something I learned and earned in growing older. But not even in maturity did I feel completely free. I began to feel freer only when the lines became deeper. The deeper they were, the freer I felt, the less I feared the judgments of others, their pretenses, their tyrannies. And at the moment when the lines got where they are now, I felt completely free. Old age is a catharsis. In old age you no longer fear anything or anyone. The only danger is that if you have no moral sense (but I have that to burn) you may believe that you're allowed to do anything - because as an old person you know more, you understand more. You have a full capital of knowledge and experience that in youth you didn't even dream of and that in maturity was only partly available to you...The brain refines itself when you're old, perfects itself. And at the same time, paradoxically, it grows rich with a curiosity that before you didn't have. Because in youth you're presumptuous. You don't know beans and you think you know everything. As an old person, instead, Socratically, you grow aware of knowing too little. You also become conscious of the brevity of life. And with this consciousness comes a great desire to produce what you have not yet produced. Then, primed with a new energy, you seek to leap across that void - quickly, quickly. You study, you read, you produce, without wasting any time. . .I don't even understand someone who retires. Retirement is a renunciation. It's a surrender. Those who retire dry up right away. They think dried up, they walk dried up, they come to be treated as dried up. . .Retirement is suicide. Suicide."
She hasn't committed that suicide - truly she hasn't. She works with such intensity that it's difficult to keep up with her. Ten years ago she went to the Gulf War. This time she didn't go to the war in Afghanistan only because she was writing Rage and Pride. "I'd have had to face the physical problem if I'd gone to Afghanistan, it's true. Not only the problem of age as much as that of illness. The Alien wears you down, believe me. He weakens you, and let's admit it: as old people we can't do the things we could do when we were young. Your body becomes like a car engine that has done too many miles, your two legs don't run any more like they used to, your lungs don't breathe like before and every so often your heart misses a beat. At the Gulf War I had all the necessary experience, by then, to follow a war. But when they told me that to follow the marines in the desert I'd have to commit to carrying a backpack weighing thirty- five kilos, I had a fit. I no longer could, I no longer can, carry thirty-five kilos on my back. You have to give up a certain desert action due to the frigging backpack, the frigging thirty-five kilos. Nonetheless I was among the first to get to Kuwait City. Without a backpack, I was the only one to fly the Iraqi skies in a stratotanker and risk Iraqi antiaircraft. Without a backpack I captured four Iraqi prisoners in the desert - a thing that amused me greatly because old age reinforces the sense of irony - especially irony directed against oneself."
Is she sorry to have set aside any possibility of going to Afghanistan because she was writing Rage and Pride? "Yes and no. More no than yes. Because apart from the fact that the Afghan winter is deadly cold and I can't stand cold, am too thin to stand it and in my whole life have never followed a war in a cold country, besides that I'm fed up with wars seen up close. Classical or technological, when you boil it down they're all the same. Result: you realize that at a certain point you've gotten used to always telling the same story. The same explosions, the same deaths, the same tragedies. In fact after Vietnam, every time I went to a war I felt I was seeing things I'd seen before, writing what I'd written before. So one day I said that's enough: I cannot, I don't want to, and I ought not to, repeat myself any more."
Her last line about old age: "Ah, if old age could only last an eternity. It has a sole defect, this splendid season of life: as we all know, it doesn't last, it ends. About this I completely agree with Anna Magnani. Magnani hated death as much as I do. One day she said to me: "Porca miseria, from the day we're born, it's so unfair that we're going to die."
Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Panorama, 2002
"Oriana Fallaci is a hero, plain and simple. Her courage was a model few others dare to even try to imitate." --Brian
"The Rage and the Pride" by Oriana Fallaci is a passionate defense of Western civilization and a scathing indictment of the Islamic effort to destroy it." --Author Unknown
Oriana Fallaci is the only person, of whom I never met, whose name I would consider physically defending upon defamation by another man. Because she defended our culture at a great personal cost and risk. The Italian government is the place to go to start handcuffing people for breaking the Mancino Law.
"There are moments in Life when keeping silent becomes a fault, and speaking an obligation. A civic duty, a moral challenge, a categorical imperative from which we cannot escape." --Oriana Fallaci